Tag: gay marriage

Maryland Same-Sex Marriage Opponents Aim to Put Issue to Referendum

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They told us they’d do it and now they’re doing it. A coalition of anti-gay-marriage groups has begun a signature drive to put the same-sex marriage bill that recently passed the Maryland legislature up for voter referendum in November. They’ll get their referendum if they can get 56,000 signatures by the end of June. With marriage-equality splitting Maryland voters nearly in half, I’ll think they’ll get it.

Oh, and in case you were wondering who is to blame for the passage of the gay marriage bill, it’s the “elites.”According to Maryland Marriage Alliance Executive Director Derek McCoy, the recent success of the marriage equality movement is due to “an elite group of politicians and supporters” who are out of step with “average” Marylanders. Not to be contrary, but you’d think that with such overwhelming support from the “elites” that the queer community would have had it a little easier up until now, right?

Of course, it’s just as likely that voters will confirm the bill as reject it in November. But to the church, even if the bill is upheld it won’t be required to perform same-sex marriages, though they may catch some heat for denying a lesbian communion at her mother’s funeral, as happened last week in Gaithersburg, Md.

Same-Sex Marriage Passes MD Senate — Nat’l Poll Finds Fewer Opponents Than Ever

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In a historic and moving step, the Maryland Senate passed a gay marriage bill tonight by a 25-22 vote, which means that MD could soon become the eighth United State to support same-sex marriage. Of course, opponents hope (and vow) to turn the tables in a public vote in November — and they may well succeed. Church groups and conservative opponents are working diligently on a petition drive even as exciting news of the bill’s passage breaks across the nation.

But a story in today’s Los Angeles Times offers an extra jolt of optimism for those of us who fully support same-sex unions.

“Supporters of gay marriage…point to polls that show increasing numbers of voters back the right for same-sex unions, and they are hopeful that a referendum would go in their favor…” writes Ian Duncan. “A nationwide CBS News/New York Times poll conducted in February showed 40 percent of respondents favored allowing same-sex marriages, while 23 percent supported civil unions and 31 percent rejected either measure.” Forty percent, excellent and striking news.

By the way, those six other states that allow gay marriage currently are: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York. Washington state and Maryland will be numbers seven and eight if looming referendum challenges fail. Washington, D.C., also allows gay marriage.

In light of the encouraging evidence that more and more people are supporting same-sex unions, we’d like to take this opportunity to ask you whether your view of the issue has changed in the last five years? What about the last 10?

And where do you expect the vast majority of the country may stand on the topic in the next five and 10 years, respectively?

We believe — as we hope and pray — that soon enough, surely before young school-age children are old enough to vote, the right of every man and woman to marry any mentally fit adult he or she loves will no longer be considered an issue at all state to state, but a lawful state of being.

We also feel confident that someday, in the not too distant future, our country will look back at its strict resistance to same-sex unions as one of the great human rights abuses of all time.

Do let us hear your thoughts. And congratulations on this week’s happy headline, fellow Marylanders!

Gay Marriage in Maryland’s Unlikely Supporter: Dick Cheney

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As the gay marriage bill moves to the Maryland Senate this week, it’s gaining some supporters you might not expect. Like, oh, say former vice president Dick Cheney.

The marriage equality bill squeaked by the state House of Delegates last week with a 72-67 tally — just one vote above the minimum needed for passage. Baltimore County delegate Wade Kach, a last-minute supporter, was one of two Republicans who helped push the bill forward. (The other was Robert Costa of Anne Arundel County.) He said he made up his mind after seeing happy, supportive same-sex couples… and after getting a phone call from Cheney, whose daughter is a lesbian and who has come to be a prominent supporter of gay marriage.

Kach issued a statement saying that “While no one event or conversation prompted me to come to this decision, I was significantly moved by the testimony of families — who are raising children in a loving environment and deserve every right to enjoy the same protections and responsibilities that our laws provide for others.”

As we noted yesterday, now Maryland is one step closer to being the eighth state to approve same-sex marriage. The next hurdle:  the Senate vote, which is expected to take place this week. Last year, the chamber passed a similar measure, so there’s a cautious — but exuberant — hopefulness in many homes this week.

House of Delegates Passes Gay Marriage Bill (OMG Just Barely!)

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Maryland’s House of Delegates, the same chamber that killed a gay marriage bill last year, just passed the new, improved 2012 version, 72-67, after two Republicans jumped ship and voted yea.

That the bill almost didn’t pass the House, even with the full weight of the Governor’s office behind it and with massive outreach to religious black legislators by the Human Rights Campaign, speaks volume about the contentiousness of this issue in one of the “bluest” states in the union.

The State Senate is expected to pass the bill with less nail-biting suspense. But, of course, it will likely end up as a referendum, leaving voters to decide whether Maryland will become the eighth state to legalize gay marriage. With that and the Dream Act on the ballot, I wouldn’t be surprised if Maryland earns a record voter turnout in November.

Now I know the bill has already been thoroughly revamped from the 2011 version, with plenty of clear-cut religious protections, and so on. But before the Senate votes, I would like to suggest one final amendment to the bill: that all wedding receptions must feature water chestnuts wrapped in bacon and that I need to be invited. Thank you.

Maryland Coalition Strives to Increase African-American Support Statewide for Gay Marriage

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Required reading in Wednesday’s New York Times reported on a coalition working to bring more black voters in Maryland to a pro-gay-marriage mindset — the Human Rights Campaign and the Service Employees International Union trains focus on African American Democrats, whose high-population support is essential for the passage of a bill to legalize gay marriage, now headed to the state legislature.  

“The campaign includes videos of well-known African-American Marylanders, including Michael Kenneth Williams, an actor from the television series ‘The Wire,’ and Mo’nique, a Baltimore-born actress; an editorial in The Afro; and conversations in churches and union halls, where most members are black,” reports Sabrina Tavernise in her thorough NYTimes piece.

Tavernise recounts a Washington Post poll from last month which reported that 71 percent of white Maryland Democrats support gay marriage, which only 41 percent of black Maryland Democrats are pro-same-sex union. (Shocking, no?)

The coalition may or may not succeed in shifting the bias of a certain slice of the black community historically opposed to homosexuality, usually on religious grounds. Last year, several black churches joined forces to launch the Maryland Marriage Alliance, their own coalition to fight the gay marriage bill — the massive Maryland Catholic Conference is on board, too.

So, it’s really uplifting to read in this article about activists like the Rev. Larry Brumfield, an African-American pastor in Baltimore, who speaks out regularly on his radio program about gay rights, aiming to be “extra vocal” to change people’s minds and help change the law.

“It really bothers me how black people can be so insensitive to oppression,” he said in the NYTimes story. “They use the same arguments that were used against us by the segregationists in the 1950s.”

It bothers us, too — in fact, the situation outright confounds us. In our view, homophobia is absolutely identical to racism and sexism. Haven’t we all learned anything from the civil rights movement? Why doesn’t a larger portion of the Democratic African American community feel compelled to empathize with a minority making brave strides in the name of basic equality? And if the Human Rights Campaign fails to sway enough black voters, will Obama feel comfortable supporting gay marriage with maximum courage? What are your thoughts on the issue, readers?

Maryland: a House Divided

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There are two contentious issues that will likely be on the ballot in November, and each one cuts Maryland voters in half. One is the Maryland Dream Act, and the other is gay marriage.

The Dream Act is a measure that would give in-state tuition rates at community colleges to illegal immigrant students (who have graduated from a public high school in that county and whose parents pay Maryland taxes). It passed in the state legislature, after which Republicans ran a signature drive that put the act up for referendum.

The success of that petition has was a morale-builder for Maryland’s minority party, who have vowed to use the same tactic against a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, were the General Assembly to pass one (and, with the recent support of Gov. O’Malley, they just might).

The referendum strategy isn’t a slam dunk for Republicans, though it’s certainly got to make Democrats uneasy. A recent poll found among likely Maryland voters, forty-eight percent favor the Dream Act; forty-nine percent oppose. Gay marriage is similarly divisive: forty-nine percent favor; forty-seven percent oppose. With a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, that’s a dead-heat for both.

Expect Maryland to get extra tense around November. On the upside, it may bring more people to the polls than in years past.

Baltimore County Latest to Honor Health Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses

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2012 will mark the beginning of Baltimore County extending health benefits to its employee’s same-sex spouses.  The policy change comes after arbitration in favor of two police officers who filed grievances over the failure of the county to provide health coverage (that they had been paying for) to their same-sex spouses.

Baltimore County is not the first locale in Maryland to give at least some faith and credit to the legal same-sex marriages of other states. Employees of the state of Maryland, Baltimore City, Howard County, and Montgomery County already include their same-sex spouses in their health benefits.

The new policy will only acknowledge gay couples with a legal marriage (from another state, of course) and will not extend to those living in domestic partnerships. But it’s an incremental win for gay rights advocates in Maryland and highlights same-sex marriage as a fairly simple civil rights issue. Hopefully, it will soon become clear to those who stumble over the issue on religious grounds that to deny gays the right to marry is simply to deny American citizens equal protection under the law.

Maryland Republicans Plan to Fight Gay Marriage with a Signature Drive

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Del. Neil Parrott recently ran a signature drive which successfully brought the controversial Dream Act (which would give in-state tuition benefits at a local community college to illegal immigrant students who have graduated from a public high school in that county and whose parents pay Maryland taxes) up for referendum. Other state legislators who opposed the act were initially skeptical of the efficacy of a signature drive. Senator Parrott and other Republicans now see petitions as a viable way to fight legislation as the minority party. And according to an article on The Capital‘s website  they are looking forward to using the same process to thwart any marriage equality bill that passes in the senate.

Governor O’Malley’s plans to pass a gay-marriage bill next year could put it on the ballot in 2012 for a referendum (assuming opponents get enough signatures to bring the bill to a referendum). Senate Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs implies that this could be bad for Democrats, as a gay-marriage referendum would lure more socially conservative voters to the polls. Does she think that pro-gay-rights voters might not also come out in droves at the opportunity to legalize same sex marriage in Maryland?

What do you think? Would a gay-marriage bill in Maryland get voted down in a referendum? Will it never get past the legislature? Does the marriage equality movement have a chance of converting enough conservative senators in this state as it did in New York?

Can you imagine any of our Republican senators echoing the sentiments of State Senator Mark J. Grisanti of Buffalo? Grisanti said in a short speech before casting his vote, “I believe this state needs to provide equal rights and protection to all of its citizens.” He went on, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state…the same rights I have with my wife.”

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