Entries from: Maryland

BREAKING: Maryland House postpones marriage vote

breaking newsThe Maryland House of Delegates will not vote on a marriage equality bill today as expected, Gay Politics has learned.  We’ll have updates as more information becomes available.

Media accounts leading up to today characterized the vote count as extremely close, with no one predicting a final outcome.  What’s clear is anti-gay groups and religious organizations stepped up efforts to sway undecided Delegates in recent days, which may have lead supporters to ask that the bill be pulled from consideration until they were confident they could win.

UPDATE:  Equality Maryland has issued a statement about today’s events, promising to continue to fight to pass the marriage equality bill:

It is best to delay this historic vote until we are absolutely sure we have the votes to win. We look forward to working strategically with our amazing allies in the legislature, and our supporters across the state, to continue to build support for, and win, marriage equality in the Free State.

A separate statement issued from the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry, Equality Maryland and Gill Action read in part:

Already this year we have made tremendous progress toward winning the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Maryland.  Successful votes in the full Senate and House committee show there is a strong and growing movement toward the freedom to marry.  Over the past several days it has become clear that additional time to continue the marriage conversation in the state will better position the Civil Marriage Protection Act for success.  By taking a bit more time, the majority of Marylanders who support the freedom to marry in the state will have the opportunity to have their voices heard by their legislators.

Maryland legislator comes out as gay

petermurphyWith a vote expected this week on a marriage equality bill, Maryland Del. Peter Murphy has told the Washington Blade he is gay.  The acknowledgment adds an eighth openly LGBT state lawmaker in Maryland, giving it the largest LGBT caucus in the U.S.

The Blade reported:

Murphy represents a conservative part of the state, but said he’s not concerned about any backlash in making his sexual orientation public in the media.

“I’m not concerned,” he said. “People who know me know that I represent everyone in the district. I work hard to make sure that everyone has a voice and an opportunity to be heard.”

Across U.S., LGBT legislators leading fights to expand equality

mddelegatesFrom coast-to-coast, openly gay and lesbian members of state legislatures are asking their colleagues to support expanding equality for LGBT Americans, and in many cases they are leading efforts to enact legislation that recognizes same-sex partners and their families, according to an Associated Press analysis this week:

Of America’s 7,382 state legislators, only 85 are openly gay or lesbian. They are, however, playing an outsized and often impassioned role when the agenda turns to recognizing same-sex couples with civil unions or full marriage rights.

In Hawaii and Illinois, gay state representatives were lead sponsors of civil union bills signed into law earlier this year. In Maryland and Rhode Island, gay lawmakers are co-sponsoring pending bills that would legalize same-sex marriage. In New York, a gay senator, Tom Duane, is preparing to be lead sponsor of a marriage bill in his chamber later this session.

“For my colleagues, knowing that I am not allowed to marry the person that I love and want to marry, that’s very powerful,” said Duane, a Democrat from Manhattan. “It’s more difficult for them to take for granted the right they have to marry when I don’t have it.”

In Maryland a final vote on the pending marriage equality bill could come as early as this week, so the six openly gay and lesbian members of the state’s House of Delegates (pictured)  penned a deeply personal appeal to their colleagues, according to the Washington Post.  The letter reads in part:

For us, as for all of Maryland’s families, a marriage license will mean far more than the paper on which it is printed. For us, it means the possibility of shared health insurance, more stable homes for our children, and fewer conversations about legal documents with attorneys. We would never want the responsibility of voting on you and your spouse’s will, power of attorney, or advanced medical directive, but you’ve been put in that position this week for our families. We have faith that when faced with the option, you will vote to allow same-sex couples the opportunity to fulfill the commitments of mutual support and shared responsibility that we have already made to one another and to our children.

In Colorado yesterday a civil unions bill, sponsored by openly gay state legislators, advanced out of a state senate committee

In Washington State, out lesbian State Rep. Laurie Jinkins sponsored and helped pass a bill that would recognize legally married same-sex couples under the state’s domestic partnership law.

In February, Hawaii House Majority Leader Blake Oshiro, who is openly gay, sponsored and helped pass a sweeping civil unions bill, which was signed into law.

In January, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a civil unions bill that was sponsored by openly gay State Rep. Greg Harris.

“Gay lawmakers are people, as opposed to issues.  The impact of having one of your colleagues directly affected by the legislation on the table is very powerful,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, according to the AP report.

Photo:  Towleroad

A year after D.C., Maryland considers marriage equality

MD_Welcome_SignThe state of Maryland surrounds Washington, D.C., whose other border is the Potomac River.  For the past year, Maryland’s same-sex couples have had the opportunity to travel into the District to legally marry, but the trip may not be necessary for much longer.  As D.C.’s LGBT community celebrates a year of marriage equality, the Maryland House of Delegates is preparing to vote on a marriage equality bill of its own.

One of the first gay couples to marry in D.C. last year told Metro Weekly, “Life got back to normal pretty quickly.”  And so it has for most District residents, who, though they may have blinked a few times when they saw dozens of same-sex couples lined up to get marriage licenses last March, now seemingly don’t think about it much at all.  Marriage is available to all committed couples, and that reality got woven into the fabric of this capital city fairly quickly.

Anti-gay forces are pulling out all the stops in Maryland now to keep a marriage equality bill from passing in this legislative session.  The National Organization for Marriage is targeting certain legislators with attack mailers designed to punish them for supporting the legislation.  That’s the same organization that tried and failed to stop marriage equality in D.C.

Here’s hoping Maryland lawmakers and residents take a gander over their border to D.C., where requests for marriage licenses have skyrocketed in the last year.  Or look to Massachusetts, where marriage equality has been in place for nearly seven years, and where the divorce rate is one of the lowest in the country.  They should read about polling in New Hampshire, where residents now overwhelmingly oppose repealing that state’s marriage equality law.

Change is hard.  New things take a little getting used to.  But marriage rights for same-sex couples seem to be something most people become comfortable with fairly quickly.  Marylanders will too.

BREAKING: Maryland Senate votes to allow gays, lesbians to marry

MD Flag SmallThe fight for marriage equality in Maryland took a giant step forward tonight as the State Senate voted to approve a bill that extends legal marriage to same-sex couples.  The  legislation now heads to the House of Delegates for debate.  If it wins approval in the lower chamber, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has vowed to sign the bill into law.

The bill’s openly gay co-author, Sen. Rich Madaleno, was a leading force in persuading his colleagues to support the measure.  Madaleno told Gay Politics last year that an increase in the number of openly gay and lesbian state legislators would have an impact on their straight colleagues.  ”Just by having out people there to participate in the conversation fundamentally alters the discussion.  The tenor of the conversation changes.  It humanizes it,” Madaleno said.

Maryland has seven openly gay and lesbian state lawmakers, six of whom serve in the House of Delegates.