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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Maryland

Activity: 2011-FEB-20 to MAR-04:
Senate and House Committee pass bill

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2011-FEB-20: 25 senators support bill; one more than required to pass bill in Senate:

The Christian Post reported that the state Republican Party was sending out alert Emails encouraging citizens to call swing-vote senators and ask that they "protect marriage between a man and a woman" by voting against the marriage equality bill, SB-116. GOP chairman Alex Mooney wrote: "It is urgent that you contact your state senator immediately to tell them to vote no on the assault on traditional marriage."

He promotes the belief that marriage is a zero-sum game: that is, to allow same-sex couples to gain protection for themselves and their children through marriage takes something away from opposite-sex couples.

Sen. James Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s County) announced on 2011-FEB-18 that he would be voting for the same-sex marriage bill. This brought the bill 18 positive votes from sponsors of the legislation and 7 votes from other Senators. This meant a total support at 25 votes which is in excess of the 24 votes needed to pass the bill.

Governor Martin O'Malley (D) has promised to sign the bill into law as long as it does not require religious groups to perform same-sex ceremonies. It doesn't; in fact it would be unconstitutional if it did, because it would then violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Churches have denied marriage to couples on the basis of age, race, being too closely related, being insufficiently mature, and -- in the case of the Catholic Church -- where one party is physically disabled. There is no reason why they cannot continue to deny marriage on the basis of gender -- or any other factor -- with impunity. The District of Columbia and the states that allow same-sex marriage have been doing so since as long ago as 2004. No priest, pastor, minister, rabbi, imam, etc. has been sued for rejecting a same-sex couple who want to get married. It is surprising that some people believe that clergypersons could be threatened with lawsuits; it is even more surprising that news sources would claim that they are at risk.

To settle the fears of some faith groups, a clause was added to the bill that specifically protect the clergy who wish to continue to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party is introducing a civil unions bill as an alternative to same-sex marriage. This is a common reaction among Republicans and religious conservatives who normally oppose both SSMs and civil unions. When a SSM bill is expected to pass, they will advocate in favor of civil unions in the hopes of defeating a marriage bill.

The National Organization for Marriage, whose main goal is to prevent marriage of same-sex couples, predicts that the same-sex marriage bill will fail. Its president Brian Brown said: "The people just don’t want same-sex marriage." If it does pass, he expects that NOM and other religious conservatives will attempt to change the constitution or to repeal the bill via a referendum. He said: "In every state where the people had the chance to vote, in both deep blue and deep red states, they have voted against same-sex marriage." While this is a true statement, recent voter initiatives have passed by increasingly smaller percentages. In the most recent cases, a shift in public opinion by 2 or 3 percentage points would have reversed the decision. Meanwhile, opposition to SSM has been dropping by 1 to 2 percentage points a year. 1

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2011-FEB-24: Maryland Senate passed same-sex marriage bill:

The state Senate passed the Civil Marriage Protection Act, by a vote of 25 to 21 on the evening of 2011-FEB-24. The vote was essentially along party lines. If passed by the House signed into law, it would extend marriage to loving, committed same-sex couples, while granting clergypersons protection from lawsuits if they decide to continue to discriminate against such couples by refusing to marry them. Similar protections will be guaranteed to wedding photographers, caterers, etc.

Senator Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D), a gay male, said:

"It demonstrates our commitment to civil rights and equality to all. The House of Delegates should act swiftly to provide loving families across our state with the dignity and respect we deserve." 2

The House was expected to begin a hearing on the bill on FEB-25.

Representative Heather Mizeur (D), a lesbian, estimates that there are almost 71 Democratic members of the House who have publicly committed to vote for the bill. This is the number needed to pass it. Other Democrats have not announced their position. She expects the bill to pass.

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SSM bill passes House committee:

The bill was introduced into the House of Delegates and referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

According to the Herald Mail:

"The six openly gay members of the House asked the House Judiciary Committee to grant same-sex couples the same rights heterosexual couples have."

Del. Heather Mizeur, (D) ... motioned to her spouse, Deborah Mizeur, who was sitting in the audience at the hearing, [saying].

"This debate is not about abstractions, this debate is not about definition, it's about the thousands of families who will be protected by this law." 3

Since co-sponsors of the bill hold most of the seats in the Committee, it was originally expected to pass quickly during a vote on MAR-01. However, the vote was held up because two delegates have temporarily boycotted committee meetings.

A vote was held on the afternoon of MAR-04. It passed by a vote of 12 to 10 with a recommendation to the House that it be passed. Again, the vote was essentially on party lines.

Delegate Neil Parrott (R) proposed an amendment that would allow grandmothers to marry their grandsons; it was later withdrawn. 4

Delegate Tiffany T. Alston (D), a co-sponsor of the original same-sex marriage bill, offered an amendment to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions but not be able to be married. It failed on a 10-10 vote.

Del. Kumar Barve, lead sponsor of the bill, said:

"To me, this legislation is all about family, liberty and respect. I respect the civil liberties of same-sex couples who wish to solemnize their relations and families in the eyes of the law. I also respect the values of those in our society who are not comfortable with same-sex relationships. Surely there is enough space in America for all of us to build our lives and families as we choose and live next to each other." 4

The bill was expected to be debated and voted upon in the House during the week of MAR-06.

Governor Martin O'Malley (D) has said that he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

If the bill had become law, Maryland would have been the seventh jurisdiction in the U.S. to allow same-sex couples to marry: that would then include six states and the District of Columbia.

Conservative religious groups and legislators who are opposed to marriage equality planned to counter-attack if this bill is signed into law during 2011. They would attempt to arrange a plebiscite for election day in 2012-NOV that would repeal the measure.

Polls indicate that support for SSM was about: 35% circa 2003-2004, and that this rose to 45% in 2008-2009. This is a rate of increase of 2 percentage points per year. If this rate were to continue until late 2012, support would reach about 54% by the time of the referendum. If the fear-based campaign that successfully upheld Proposition 8 in California were to be replicated in Maryland, then part of this increase in support would certainly be rolled back. The vote is impossible to predict at this time; a referendum could go either way. 5

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Discussion of this topic continues...

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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. Stephanie Samuel, "Md. GOP Tries to Swing Senators on Gay Marriage Vote," Christian Post, 2011-FEB-20, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  2. Dave Warner, "Maryland Senate approves same-sex marriage," Reuters, 2011-FEB-24, at: http://www.reuters.com/
  3. "Maryland House weighs gay marriage bill," Associated Press, 2011-FEB-25, at: http://www.herald-mail.com/
  4. Yusef Najafi, "Maryland House Committee Votes 12-10 in Favor of Marriage Bill," PoliGlot, 2011-MAR-04, at: http://metroweekly.com/
  5. David Hill, "Gay-marriage bill revived in Maryland: 2 key lawmakers return for vote," Washington Times, 2011-MAR-02, at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/
  6. Matthew Hay Brown, "House committee passes same-sex marriage bill," Baltimore Sun, 2011-MAR-04, at: http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/

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

Copyright © 2010 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-FEB-21
Latest update: 2011-JUL-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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