Friday, March 11, 2011

Brody's Notes... Marriage Equality In Maryland Suffers Setback

By Brody Levesque & Linsey Pecikonis (Annapolis, Maryland) MAR 11 | The Maryland House of Delegates today approved a motion that sent  the proposed Civil Marriage Protection Act back to the House Judiciary Committee effectively killing it's chances for passage this year. The bill would have allowed same-sex marriage in Maryland. The measure had cleared the state's Senate two weeks ago on a 25-to-21 vote, and Governor Martin O'Malley (D) had pledged to sign it.
After nearly three hours of contentious debate that broke down along religious dogma versus arguments for civil rights, the Chairman of the House' Judiciary Committee, Joseph Vallario, (D-District 27A), in a move that stunned both supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 116, made a motion to return Senate Bill 116 to the Committee in a move that saved the chamber's 141 members from having to declare a position on the divisive issue, an acknowledgment that it did not have sufficient votes to pass on the floor.
Reaction from supporters reflected disappointment with the procedural motion by Delagate Vallario.
"While we are disappointed the House did not vote to pass marriage equality today, we are confident we will win in the future. With so much at stake today for thousands of Maryland families, we are thankful that our legislative allies have taken such care with this vote. 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.
We are extraordinarily grateful to the many leaders who have stood by us throughout this journey. We wouldn't have made it this far without their tireless dedication. We commend the thousands of supporters across the state who made calls, sent emails, and met with their legislators to tell them why all Maryland couples should be treated fairly. Folks from all over Maryland stood up and told their stories, got involved and built grassroots support to extend to the freedom to marry to all loving and committed couples.
As a result of the tireless efforts, strong hearts, and the determination of gay and lesbian couples and our many allies it is only a matter of time before Marylanders achieve marriage equality," said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, the Executive Director of Equality Maryland.
Lamda Legal in a press release said:
On behalf of many same-sex couples and their families who seek equality, we are disappointed by the Maryland House’s failure today to finish the job started by the Senate last month. But this is not the end. We commend the state Senators who passed the Civil Marriage Protection Act and the House Delegates who have staunchly supported marriage equality. We urge the House to soon bring the bill to a successful vote and give critical protections to Maryland's thousands of same-sex couples and their families. We applaud Equality Maryland for its tireless and ongoing work for Maryland families. Thousands of same-sex couples in Maryland are still not allowed to get married in their home state and must travel out of state to better protect their families.
One opponent of the measure, Delegate Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore City), said he found it offensive that the homosexual rights movement is compared to the civil rights movement. Burns also said that he's been threatened and called "Nigger" regarding his opposition to the same-sex marriage bill.
"The civil rights movement as I knew it... had nothing to do with same-sex marriage," he said, "and those who decide to ride on our coattails are historically incorrect. The civil rights movement was about putting teeth into the Declaration of Independence."
Countering Burns was Montgomery County Democrat  Heather Mizeur, one of the eight openly Gay delegates who spoke about her childhood, and how she knew she always wanted to be an elected official. Mizeur said that she knew she was lesbian, but added that she always considered herself a devout Catholic.
"I prayed and I prayed and I prayed that it would go away," she said "Especially the gay part. Make it go away. By the time I was in college… I realized that never once with my conversations with God, did God tell me it was wrong. You can't stop us from loving each other," Mizeur said, adding that, "what we're asking for is the ability to protect oru relationships and that commitment to forever.”