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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Maryland

Activity: 2011-JAN-01 to FEB-04
SSM status. Bill introduced. Support

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Current status at the start of 2011:

During 2010-DEC, Morgan Meneses-Sheets, the Executive Director of Equality Maryland wrote in an Email that the 2010-NOV election has:

"... brought us to a tipping point in the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] equality in our state. We’re closer than ever to securing marriage for same-sex couples and to passing an anti-discrimination bill that includes gender identity and expression. And in 2011, we’re ready to win right here in the Free State."

"Last week, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and Freedom to Marry’s Political Director Sean Eldridge made the commitment to double all donations made to Equality Maryland between now and the end of the year up to $25,000. They know we have a strong plan to win in the upcoming legislative session and their generous matching grant will help turn that plan into success."

"The legislative session begins on [2011] January 12th and we want to make it clear to every legislator in Annapolis where the majority of Marylanders stand on equality. ..." 1

Meneses-Sheets' statement that most Maryland voters support same-sex marriage is correct, but only by a small margin. The gap between Maryland supporters and opposers was 4% according to a Washington Post poll in 2010-MAY. The margin has probably widened to about 5.5% in early 2011 and will probably reach about 7% by 2012.

However, the experience with fear-based anti-SSM advertising associated with Proposition 8 in California shows that margins can shrink rapidly in response to such ads. If an voter initiative to ban SSM was organikzed during 2011, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- the Mormons, the Roman Catholic Church, and some evangelical Christian organizations would probably repeat California's Prop 8 strategy in Maryland by investing tens of millions of dollars in a state-wide advertising campaign to defeat SSM. Such an initiative would probably fail by a very close vote.

An alternative is to have the state legislature legalize SSM. However, few legislators are enthusiastic about passing such legislation in view of the opposition by a strong minority of their voters.

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2011-JAN-25: Senate Bill SB 116 introduced:

Bill SB 116, the "Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act" was drafted by Sen. Rich Madaleno (D), the only openly gay member of Maryland's Senate, and Sen. Jamie Raskin (D). It would not create a new class of marriage for same-sex couples. It would simply allow all couples -- whether same-sex or opposite-sex -- to enter into a civil marriage under the same legislation. However, there is no guarantee that a couple could be married by a clergyperson in a religious congregation, synagogue, temple, mosque, etc. of their choice. Clergypersons could continue to refuse to marry same-sex couples if they wished. That is, they would continue to have the religious freedom to discriminate against any couple for any reason.

At the press conference when the bill was introduced, a number of gay-positive groups were in attendence: Equality Maryland; the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland; the Human Rights Campaign; the Maryland Black Family Alliance; Catholics for Equality, Pride and Faith; Progressive Maryland; and Freedom to Marry.

At the meeting:

  • Del. Heather Mizeur (D), a lesbian, said:

    ''For thousands of GLBT Marylanders a marriage license is worth more than the paper it's printed on. While it's love that makes a family, it's marriage that protects a family.''

  • Sean Eldridge, the political director for Freedom to Marry, said the SSM is now available in five states and the District of Columbia. The:
    "... sky has not fallen. ... Americans are looking at their gay neighbors and colleagues and family members and realizing that they deserve the same treatment and the same respect as everyone else. At the end of the day, this is about loving couples who have committed to spending their lives together, ... who need the need the critical safety net of rights and protections that come only with marriage.
  • Lea Gilmore, outreach director of the Maryland Black Family Alliance, said:

    ''As a woman, as a citizen of Maryland, as woman who has been married 27 years to the Rev. T. Gilmore, and as a person of deep faith, this a great day. As African American, we more than most know how damaging discrimination can be. When you exclude any group of citizens from legal protections, it damages all of us. ... I stand with you not in spite of my faith, but because of my faith.''

  • Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola (D), who is straight, said: ''It's time that we get full marriage equality and that we get it in 2011" 2

  • Co-sponsor Sen. Rich Madaleno (D) said:

    ''My husband and I married in a church ten years ago. ... [W]e now have two wonderful, sometimes taxing, children. ... We look forward to the day, in about hopefully six or seven weeks when we can celebrate the actual passage of this bill and Maryland can step up and be truly 'the free state' once again.'

A total of 18 senators initially signed onto bill as sponsors and cosponsors. All are Democrat. Initially, three additional senators were not sponsors but have committed to vote in favor of the bill. Two are Democrats, and the other is the lone Republican willing to support marriage equality: Allan Kittleman. He resigned as the Republican minority Senate leader in order to vote for the bill. He consideres SSM to be a civil rights issue.

As expected, it left the Judicial Proceedings Committee during the week of 2010-FEB-13 for consideration by the Senate.

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2011-FEB-04: Coalition of Christian clergypersons support SB 116:

A coalition of Baptists and Catholics announced support for marriage equality in Maryland. Josh Bell of FreedomToMarry.org wrote:

"A Christian coalition of clergymen and women announced Thursday that it's time Maryland passed a law recognizing same-sex marriages."

"The announcement comes as more powerful forces within those faiths pledge to lobby hard to keep marriage between a man and a woman."

"Pressure from religious groups, especially Catholic and black churches, is a big reason the legislature has been slow to embrace same-sex marriages. The coalition of clergy said it hopes to turn that tide."

"Baptist leaders joined with Catholic leaders in Annapolis on Thursday in support of the bill before the General Assembly that allows same-sex partners to legally marry in Maryland and receive the same rights as heterosexual couples."

"But the other side of the pew remains strong in its opposition. The Maryland Catholic Conference and the Baptist Ministers Conference of Baltimore promise to keep the pressure on to keep the status quo."

Sister Jeannine Gramick, a Maryland representative of the National Coalition of Nuns said:

"The Christian church's appreciation of the infallibility of religious freedom, its sexual theology, and even the meaning of marriage have all changed over time." 3

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Equality Maryland's website is at: http://www.equalitymaryland.org
  2. Yusef Najafi, "Maryland Gets Marriage Bill: Amid fanfare, legislators introduce marriage-equality measure in Annapolis," Metro Weekly, 2011-JAN-25, at: http://www.metroweekly.com/
  3. Josh Bell, "Christian Representatives Voice Support for Maryland Marriage Bill," Freedom To Marry, 201-FEB-04, at: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/

Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > MD > here

Copyright © 2010 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2010-DEC
Latest update: 2011-JAN-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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