Electoral silver linings for equality

December 12, 2010 at 8:39 am 33 comments

By Adam Bink

I didn’t have time to write about this on Thursday, but one of the brighter spots in these past elections has been, as The Washington Post describes, the prospects for achieving the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Maryland.

A majority of senators on a key committee in Maryland now favor legalizing same-sex marriage, making it increasingly likely that the state will join five others and the District in allowing such unions.

Membership changes on the panel, where same-sex marriage bills have previously died, are among a handful of shifts produced by last month’s elections. Collectively, they appear to have tipped the balance on the most high-profile social issue the General Assembly will consider during its upcoming 90-day session.

Republican gains Nov. 2 in other state legislatures are expected to lead to more conservative social policies. But Democrats in Maryland bucked the trend, adding two seats to their majority in the Senate. Moreover, when the General Assembly convenes next month, a few senators who lost primaries will be replaced by Democrats more supportive of same-sex unions.

“This has truly been a transformative election on this issue,” said Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), an openly gay lawmaker who has sponsored same-sex marriage legislation and plans to push for passage this session. “I could not have hoped for a better result. You can see a real path to enacting this legislation.”

Despite Maryland’s reputation as a liberal state, lawmakers have been slower to embrace same-sex unions than their colleagues in some other blue states, in part because of the strong opposition of the Catholic and black churches.

The legislation would remove a long-standing requirement in Maryland law that recognizes only marriages between a man and a woman.

Leaders of the House of Delegates, traditionally the more liberal chamber on social policy, said they have the votes to pass the measure. And Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has said he would sign such a bill, although he has previously supported the alternative of civil unions.


In the Senate, legislation rarely advances to a vote by the full chamber without a positive recommendation from the committee that considers it.

In past years, no more than four or five senators on the 11-member Judicial Proceedings Committee publicly committed to voting for a same-sex marriage bill.

Of the 11 senators who will be seated next month, six have either served as co-sponsors of such bills or said recently that they would support the measure. Six votes are needed to send the bill to the full chamber.

Two factors proved crucial in the changed calculus. With their gain in the Senate, Democrats were allotted an additional seat on the committee. And Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s), a minister who opposes gay marriage, requested reassignment to another committee for unrelated reasons.

“We’ve been on the razor’s edge in terms of passage the last couple of years, and these election results create a healthy, pro-marriage majority in the General Assembly,” said Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery), a committee member who supports same-sex unions.

There is a potential for a referendum (similar to the law in Maine that allows voters to retain or dispense with a law enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor) that could be a hot spot in 2012, but with pickups in the key Senate committee and other strong election results, there is a very good chance.

I would also mention in that in New York State, my home state where I got involved in the efforts to pass a bill out of the State Senate in December 2009, we picked up a net of two pro-equality seats. That would bring (assuming everyone keeps their promises), the total number of people who have voted in favor of or stated their support for marriage equality from 24 to 26 (it takes 32 votes to pass the legislation). We picked up five pro-equality votes through primaries or general elections but lost three incumbents who voted for the bill last year. The Assembly has already voted several times in favor of the bill and would again, and incoming Gov. Cuomo has pledged to make it a priority. With a few Republicans potentially ready to swing our way if the votes get close enough to 32, other possible centers who could change their mind simply as a result of the “sign of the times” or pressure, and Fight Back New York along with other advocates having made it clear in this past there will be consequences for those who voted against equality, there is a real shot. And of course, Rhode Island is also a very, very good shot now that Lincoln Chafee will be in the governor’s mansion.

While there were other significant losses for equality- the Minnesota legislature being front and center, along with the three Iowa judges- there were silver linings for equality, and we’re going to make sure to take those chances and make a big push.

Entry filed under: Community/Meta.

If this is our Hail Mary, let’s focus on moving the ball down the field first The results of homophobia being a misdemeanor in establishment Washington

33 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ronnie  |  December 12, 2010 at 8:47 am


    • 2. Ann S.  |  December 12, 2010 at 12:27 pm


      • 3. StraightForEquality  |  December 12, 2010 at 1:06 pm

  • 4. Lauren  |  December 12, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Yessss, I live in Maryland and the 2012 election will be my first time voting. I’ve always wondered why my fairly liberal state did not allow same-sex marriage or even seem to be moving toward it. Let’s get it done, Maryland! :)

    • 5. Kathleen  |  December 12, 2010 at 10:06 am

      Congratulations on your new status as a voter!!

    • 6. Michael Ejercito  |  December 12, 2010 at 12:47 pm

      It has to do with the Catholic beliefs of a substantial proportion of voters.

      • 7. Ronnie  |  December 12, 2010 at 12:54 pm

        No…. it has to do with selfish Fascists imposing their religious beliefs & definitions on the personal lives of others who do not live their lives as the former demands they do, violating the 1st & 14th amendment rights of the latter….. 8 / ….Ronnie

        • 8. Ed-M  |  December 12, 2010 at 1:43 pm

          It also has to do with low voter turnout rates among Americans. Half the people or more don’t care to come out for an election unless The Office Of The President is one of the slates on the ballot. Then turnout rises to a pathetic 60%. With low voter turnout such as this, it’s not surprising that the Fascists always win at the ballot box. These schydtheads can even vote in a Kill The Gays Bill if they wanted to… >(

          • 9. Straight Ally #3008  |  December 13, 2010 at 7:07 am

            They’ve certainly done their damnedest to influence it in Uganda. I caught Rachel Maddow’s interview with “Kill the Gays” bill proponent David Bahati. The closing lines were classic – I have to hunt them down, but in brief she said that she didn’t think Bahati would fare well before a crimes against humanity tribunal. I’d love to see Scott Lively right there in the dock with him.

      • 10. Ann S.  |  December 12, 2010 at 1:02 pm

        A great many US Catholics disagree with the Catholic church’s teachings on a great many things. Did you notice that the primarily Catholic audience was 2/3 pro-equality at Maggie Gallagher’s and Andrew Sullivan’s recent panel discussion at Georgetown?

        • 11. Straight Ally #3008  |  December 13, 2010 at 7:12 am

          Not to mention those who are anti-equality but, correctly, don’t want to push it on civil law.

  • 12. Bob  |  December 12, 2010 at 9:12 am

    thanks Adam, something positive to read with my moning cuppa,,,,,,

    Love reading about Figt Back New York, and their tactics, and sharing what they are learning, also that their fight goes beyond state borders………

    I’m still looking for that one national organization that could be all encompassing,,,,,

    • 13. Ed-M  |  December 12, 2010 at 1:46 pm

      I think Fight Back NY is going to have to be that organization. I thought Get Equal was going to be it, but it has yet to get traction. Plus, a lot of people are interested in shooting it down because (I heard) two gay men of means started it….

    • 14. Ed-M  |  December 12, 2010 at 1:48 pm

      “Shooting it down” I meant Get Equal not Fight Back NY as the “it.”

  • 15. Manilow  |  December 12, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Awesome. Can you imagine the NOMbies heads exploding when possibly three states grant marriage equality?

    • 16. Ed  |  December 12, 2010 at 10:06 am

      Right, but remember, it was never *really* about marriage equality. It’s all about a very lucrative career…..

      • 17. Ed-M  |  December 12, 2010 at 1:53 pm

        And keeping LGBTIQQGq people down because hetero is somehow “superior” and HATERO is “most superior” of all. In other words they are just Unamerican Fascists whose brains are seized with homophobia and will believe anything defamatory about us, even propaganda imported from Nazi Germany and spoon-fed to them by the likes of Paul Cameron because they WANT to… >(

  • 18. John B.  |  December 12, 2010 at 9:33 am

    The other good news is that polls show that in New York, and probably in Maryland as well, public opinion has changed dramatically in our favor in the last few years, with majorities in both states now supporting same-sex marriage–and those majorities are likely to grow over the next couple of years. Likewise Rhode Island, and New Jersey isn’t far behind. It’s just a matter of time.

  • 19. Bob Barnes  |  December 12, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Maryland does have the ability to call for referendum. Although many moderates support marriage equality, they are not as energized to get to the polls as those who oppose it.

    Keep getting the message out that ALL must be heard from, not just the dissenters.

  • 20. Sagesse  |  December 12, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Maryland is different from Maine in that the referendum, if there is one, would be in 2012, rather than immediately following a marriage equality law. No one actually married in Maine before the law was overturned. Eighteen months of marriage equality in Maryland, with no real ill effects, might be enough to move voters. And it would be a presidential election year.

    • 21. Ed-M  |  December 12, 2010 at 1:56 pm

      That’s assuming enforcement of the law is not stayed the second the NOMbies file intent to start a petition, the way Maine’s law was…

      • 22. Sagesse  |  December 12, 2010 at 2:01 pm

        Would a state stay a law until 2012… ? The stay in Maine recognized that the referendum vote was imminent.

        • 23. JPM  |  December 12, 2010 at 3:31 pm

          Unfortunately, I recall reading that once law would be stayed until it could be settled by a ballot initiative, if enough signatures were obtained.

          • 24. Straight Ally #3008  |  December 13, 2010 at 10:27 am

            Isn’t it 3% of the electorate? Not that hard to do. HERP DERP! GAYS! REFERENDUM! There you go. And Maryland still isn’t quite there – around 45% in favor of marriage equality as of 2008/2009 according to the polls cited on fivethirtyeight, but after Prop 8 and Question 1, take it with a grain of salt. For what it’s worth, if it comes to it, it could be the closest referendum on the subject to date. The tipping point has to come sooner or later.

            Side thought: perhaps some people are just bullies, getting a sadistic glee in preventing a group of people from having something? Maybe their own martial indiscretions fuel their need to seem pious?

  • 25. Sagesse  |  December 12, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    A further thought. Has anyone else noticed that the two positive moves since the election, in Illinois and in Maryland, are being done right away, matter-of-factly, with very little fanfare. They’re just doing it.

    • 26. Bob Barnes  |  December 13, 2010 at 2:26 am

      Strategically, NOM’s best efforts in Maryland is to wait till a referendum. A voter’s ban on marriage equality is easier for them to obtain and harder for us to make go away.

      • 27. Sagesse  |  December 13, 2010 at 4:55 am

        Clearly they’ll need a referendum to change anything. It looks as though the law will pass. But shouldn’t they be making noise now so that they can get signatures immediately after it passes… in order to get a stay. Does anyone know how many signatures they need in Maryland?

        • 28. Michael Ejercito  |  December 13, 2010 at 9:31 am

          Would a stay of legislation be authorized pending a referendum?

          I know the law in Maine was stayed, but that was because the law explicitly stated it would take effect next year, and the law was repealed before then.

          If the proposed legislation takes effect the next business day by its own terms, who would have authority to stay enforcement? I suppose referendum supporters could go to court to enjoin state and local officials from enforcing the legislation until the referendum election. Isa there any Maryland case law that would support such an act?

          • 29. Ronnie  |  December 13, 2010 at 9:34 am

            OMGlee…the Faux Lawyer doesn’t know…shocked….SHOCKED!!!! I tell ya….rofl…. XP …Ronnie

  • 30. Richard A. Jernigan  |  December 12, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Yes, and as BZ and I get the things together that we need to do in our effort to bring marriage equality to NC, we will be keeping notes of all these gains, and all the tactics used by those who would try to hold back the tide of civil and human rights to bolster the case. Thank you, Adam, and everyone at Courage Campaign and our extended P8TT family for all you are doing to keep us updated on any and all advances, setbacks, and other related matters.

  • 31. Rhie  |  December 12, 2010 at 1:41 pm


  • 32. Sagesse  |  December 13, 2010 at 5:04 am

    Good article in general, but interesting parallel with the LGBT civil rights movement: both groups need a charismatic leader to unite them and give the cause a voice that is heard.

    What’s at stake with the Dream Act


  • 33. Sagesse  |  December 13, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Links to a new essay by Robert George on the procreation argument. Sigh.

    The Best Argument Against Gay Marriage
    And why it fails.



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