In Maryland, Fight for Marriage Parity Continues
Though politicians in Maryland recently said that marriage equality having come to New York would not lead to passage of a similar law in that state, equality advocates there have renewed their efforts to usher in legal parity for gay and lesbian families, according to a July 12 article in the Baltimore Sun.
In the wake of the New York law, the article said, a Maryland coalition has begun a fresh campaign for marriage.
"Marylanders for Marriage Equality pulls together a collection of unions, churches and progressive groups," the Baltimore Sun article said. "The goal: Show wavering delegates that there’s support for the controversial measure and pick up the handful of new votes needed to pass it in the state’s general assembly."
Openly gay State Delegate Maggie McIntosh, a Democrat, told the Sun that equality advocates had not solicited as much support as they needed, or could have requested, for an earlier bill that fell just a few votes shy in the last legislative session.
The city’s top official was among the first to offer such support, the article noted. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was part of the media conference that introduced the new coalition, and the mayor told the press that she was "grateful" for the coalition.
The article noted that Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has voiced support for marriage equality in the past, was not at the press conference. Equality advocates hope for O’Malley’s support for any future marriage parity legislation, but it is unclear whether they can count on it.
"Governor O’Malley was incredibly helpful to us behind the scenes in the last session, but if we’re going to be successful next year, we can’t run a closeted campaign for marriage equality," openly lesbian Maryland State Delegate Heather Mizeur told the press.
One of the signature aspects of the New York law is the role that the governor of that state, Andrew Cuomo, took in shepherding it to approval by a state senate that had rejected a similar proposal only two years ago. In 2009, no Republican lawmakers supported the New York measure, and some Democrats who had previously voiced support turned their backs on marriage equality.
But in this year’s successful bid to legalize marriage for all families in New York, near unanimous Democratic support in the state senate was bolstered by four Republicans adding their weight to the bill, sending it to Cuomo’s desk.
The Human Rights Campaign also focused on New York in the months before the vote there, with a series of 30-second videos in which celebrities, politicians, and athletes declared themselves to be "New Yorkers for Equality," and invited viewers to support the cause.
"The New York debate is illustrative to what public support can do in order to give lawmakers the public support and the backing that they need to make the right decision," said the HRC’s Michael Cole-Schwarz.
Others also took note.
"Gay rights supporters in Maryland can learn a lot from the effort in the Empire State, which will join Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Iowa and Washington, D.C., as places where same-sex couples can marry," a June 27 Gazette.net article said.
"It’s love that makes a family, but marriage that protects it," Mizeur said in a June 27 radio interview.
State Sen. Allan Kittleman also remarked on support from GOP New York state lawmakers. "I think it does say something about this issue becoming more acceptable to the Republican Party," he said. The lawmaker, a Republican himself, has lent his support to the earlier marriage equality measure.
"What happened in New York demonstrates that this is not an issue supported by one party," Kittleman added. "It’s a good message to Republican lawmakers that you can support this bill and still be a good member of this party."
Maryland legislators entertained the notion that moderate Republicans among their colleagues might be persuaded to support the measure. But a July 1 follow-up article at Gazette.net indicated that such support would not be forthcoming -- not for marriage equality, anyway. One Republican lawmaker did suggest that if equality advocates were to propose civil unions, that might be more palatable to conservative lawmakers.
"I don’t see it as having a huge impact on what happens here," said State Del. C.T. Wilson. Had a vote been taken, the Gazette.net article said, Wilson would have voted against marriage rights for gay and lesbian families.