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Topics In the News
Maryland Assemby Passes Marriage Equality Bill
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 02/17/12
Last updated on: 02/18/12
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Maryland Governor O'Malley.

On February 17, 2012, after hours of tense and emotional debate, Maryland's Assembly passed the marriage equality bill sponsored by Governor Martin O'Malley. The passage reverses the action taken last year by the Assembly and bodes well for Maryland becoming the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage.

According to the Washington Post, the Assembly's passage of the bill, which was adopted by a vote of 72 to 67, practically assures that it will become law. The Senate, which approved a similar bill last year, is expected to pass it again this year and send it on to Governor O'Malley for his promised signature.

During the debate, Maryland's seven openly gay delegates urged their fellow legislators to pass the bill. "We should extend to families, same-sex loving couples, the right to marry in a civil ceremony," Del. Maggie McIntosh said in a hushed chamber after relaying her experience coming out as a lesbian. "I'm going to ask you today, my colleagues, to make history."

After the vote, Del. Heather Mizeur remarked, "Love makes a family but it's marriage that protects it. Every LGBT family in this state is going to go to bed tonight easier knowing that the state's behind them."

Two Republicans joined 70 Democrats in voting for the bill. One of them, Del. Wade Kach, said that his views on the issue changed after a hearing last week when he heard testimony from loving same-sex couples, including some with children. "My constituents did not send me here to judge people," Kach said.

Kach, who voted against the bill last year, was allegedly lobbied by high-profile Republicans, including former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The opponents of the bill cited religious tradition and opposition to "redefining" marriage as reasons for their negative votes.

The passage of the bill in the Assembly is seen as a significant victory for Governor O'Malley, who agreed to sponsor the bill after its defeat last year. In this legislative session, he has made marriage equality a top priority.

After the vote, Governor O'Malley issued a statement congratulating the Assembly members who supported the bill: "Today, the House of Delegates voted for human dignity. Speaker Busch and his fellow Delegates deserve a lot of credit for their hard work. At its heart, their vote was a vote for Maryland's children."

He continued, "There is still work to be done and marriage equality has not yet been achieved in Maryland. Wherever we happen to stand on the marriage equality issue, we can agree that all our children deserve the opportunity to live in a loving, caring, committed, and stable home, protected equally under the law."

Speaker of the Assembly Michael Busch remarked, "To be a part of this historic event is significant. This is the right thing to do. I'm convinced in my heart."

Choking back tears, Carrie Evans, the executive director of Equality Maryland, said it was hard not to become emotional thinking about how hard everyone had worked. Evans said she expects quick passage of the bill in the state Senate as soon as next week.

If, as is expected, the bill is passed by the Senate, opponents have said that they will launch a petition drive that could subject the legislation to a referendum in November. They likely will have little trouble securing the 50,000 signatures necessary. Both sides anticipate an expensive and hard-fought campaign to ensue if the referendum is on the ballot.

More details about the Assembly's passage of the marriage equality bill may be found in Justin Snow's article for Washington's MetroWeekly.

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