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Topics In the News
Maryland Senate Passes Marriage Equality Bill
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 02/23/12
Last updated on: 02/24/12
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The Maryland state flag.

On February 23, 2012, the Maryland Senate, as expected, passed the marriage equality bill. The vote was 25-22. The bill was passed by the state Assembly on February 17, 2012. Governor O'Malley plans to sign the legislation next week. However, opponents have vowed to force a referendum on the bill in November. If approved by the voters, same-sex marriages in the state will begin in January 2013.

Passage of the bill was anticipated because the Senate passed it last year. The bill did not become law then because it was withdrawn when it failed to receive sufficient support in the Assembly. After it was passed by the Assembly on February 17, the assumption was that it would once again be passed by the Senate.

Although the outcome was not seriously in doubt, Senators in opposition attempted to attach poisonous amendments to the bill and to filibuster it. After the amendments were defeated, the vote was conducted and the result was as expected.

When the vote was announced, it was greeted by cheers and applause from the supporters who packed the Senate gallery.

According to Lou Chibarro Jr.'s report in the Washington Blade, eleven Democrats opposed the bill and one Republican supported it.

Ian Duncan in the Los Angeles Times, quotes openly gay Senator Richard Madeleno as saying before the vote, "I know today we are going to make history because we are going to take another important step towards embracing every family in the state of Maryland."

Noting that he and his partner are raising two kids, Madaleno said he considers himself a "married man" and part of the "family of Maryland" without the right to legalize his and his partner's relationship with a marriage license. "It is the marriage license that symbolizes the commitment. It makes it worthwhile. I want that marriage license in the State of Maryland."

Senator Jamie Raskin, who served as the floor manager of the bill, told his colleagues of his personal bout with colon cancer. After assuring them he now has a clean bill of health, he said, "I learned that there is a difference between misfortune and injustice in life," noting that a cancer diagnosis, which can happen to anyone, is a misfortune. "But if you find someone to love in this life and to have and to hold and to dedicate your life to and you have kids together and you want to be married . . . and you can't do it, that's not a misfortune, that's an injustice because we have the power to do something about it. And today we have."

Upon news of the bill's passage, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese issued this statement: "We could not be more grateful to the senators who today voted to make all Maryland families stronger. Today, we took another giant step toward marriage equality becoming law--and we are in this position due to the unwavering leadership and resolve of Governor O'Malley and our legislative allies, particularly Sens. Rich Madaleno, Jamie Raskin, Rob Garagiola, and Brian Frosh."

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the Senate vote "an extraordinary victory for the people of Maryland and a critical step forward in the march for marriage equality nationwide."

Calling attention to her Maryland roots, Pelosi added, "As a native Marylander, this vote is a source of personal pride; as an American this action is a symbol of our progress as a nation and as a people."

Passage of the bill is regarded as a signal victory for Governor Martin O'Malley. In an interview before the Senate vote, Governor O'Malley explained to Michelangelo Signorile that after the failure of the bill last year he attempted to create a consensus in the state.

"I encouraged people to look at it through the eyes of children of gay and lesbian couples," he explained. "And it is not right, and it is not just, that children of gay and lesbian parents should have lesser protections. It was about equal rights for all."

See an account of O'Malley's interview with Signorile here. The entire interview may be heard on Signorile's radio program OutQ on SiriusXM satellite radio: OutQ.

Now that the bill has passed the legislature, opponents are free to begin gathering the 55,736 signatures that they need to trigger a referendum.

A third of the signatures need to be submitted to the State Board of Elections by May 31, with the rest by June 30. It is expected that they will have no difficulty gathering sufficient signatures and that the ballot battle will be bruising.

The new law takes effect on January 1, 2013 provided it survives the referendum.

Referenda on same-sex marriage are likely to be on the November ballot in Washington and Maine, as well as in Maryland. In addition, constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage will be on the ballot in North Carolina in May and in Minnesota in November.

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