Maryland House legislators failed today to bring to a vote a marriage equality bill their Democratic governor promised to sign. The bill was sent back to the Judiciary Committee as it became apparent it did not have the 71 votes needed for passage. It is not expected to be brought up again this year.
As it was just two weeks ago when the Maryland Senate passed its marriage equality bill by a narrow margin of 25-21, debate from both sides was passionate. This time, those in the House opposed to passing the bill that would have given same-sex couples equal marriage rights and protections were felt the greatest, and included outspoken members of the religious and black communities.
“It is my firm belief that equality under the law means equality for everyone, and our laws should reflect that fundamental principle,” Governor Martin O’Malley said in a statement, after it was clear there would be no vote.
“Together, we’ve worked hard to protect and expand these rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered citizens in our state. It was my hope to sign a marriage equality act consistent with these progressive reforms, while protecting religious freedom in our state.
“As One Maryland we must work together to respect the dignity of every individual. I remain committed to working with all Marylanders to ensure that rights are protected for equally for everyone.”
Saying “it is only a matter of time before Marylanders achieve marriage equality,” Equality Maryland, the leading LGBT advocacy group working to achieve equality in the free state released a joint statement with HRC, Freedom to Marry, and Gill Action.
The Baltimore Sun reported, “[b]y moving the bill back into committee rather than taking a final vote, the 141 delegates avoided putting on record their position on gay marriage.
“Had a vote been taken today, it would have come within a delegate or two of passage, House leaders said. Advocates believe they were a single vote shy,” and added, “about 10 delegates did not feel comfortable casting a vote today.”
Metroweekly reported during the debate the sadly racial and religious routes some chose to take.
“Del. Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore City) said he found it offensive that the gay rights movement is often compared to the civil rights movement. Burns added that he’s been threatened and called the “N-word” regarding his opposition to the 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.”
“Del. Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore City), presented an amendment to change the name of the bill to include “Civil Unions” not “marriage.” Glenn said she has promised activists supporting same-sex marriage she would be lead sponsor of legislation providing protections, but as long as that is called “civil unions” not “marriage.”
“It’s all about the word of God,” she said. “It truly is.”
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