Md. guv responds to wife’s remark on gay marriage

Gov. Martin O'Malley

First lady called opponents of equality ‘cowards’

BRIAN WITTE  |  Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Gov. Martin O’Malley sought to smooth over any raw feelings in Annapolis after his wife referred to opponents of gay marriage as “cowards,” saying Sunday that words of compassion, understanding and justice are needed in the debate.

O’Malley, a Democrat who has made same-sex marriage legislation a priority this year, closed out his remarks at the 24th National Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality by underscoring the need for using compassionate rhetoric. The governor said it’s important not to let passionate views prompt people to use “words of hurt, rather than words of healing.”

“Laws matter, but words also matter, and if compassion and understanding and justice are what we want, then we must choose laws and we must choose words of compassion, understanding and of justice,” O’Malley said.

First Lady Katie O’Malley, while giving a welcoming speech at the conference on Thursday night, said “there were some cowards that prevented it from passing” in a reference to last year’s failure of gay marriage legislation. She issued a statement Friday morning saying she regretted the comment, which was not received well by some lawmakers in Annapolis the next day.

A same-sex marriage bill passed the state Senate last year, but stalled in the House of Delegates.

O’Malley, speaking to reporters after his speech, confirmed that his remarks were made with his wife’s comments in mind.

“I love my wife very, very much, and for the last 20 years she has done the very difficult job of balancing a host of responsibilities and doing it very, very well, and none of us speak perfectly, and sometimes we make mistakes, and she’s had the humility and the strength to apologize for the mistake that she made in her choice of words,” O’Malley said.

The governor also said he thinks his wife, who is a Baltimore District Court judge, feels “very badly” about the comment.

Despite the controversy, the governor, who has reshaped the bill this year to more carefully address concerns about religious freedom, said he believes momentum is growing for the legislation.

“I think there is a much broader coalition in support this year,” O’Malley said. “I think as we progress, more and more people appreciate that the protection of individual rights and the protection of religious freedom are intertwined, and they are part of the effort that all of us share to reflect in our laws a more perfect union.”

A rally of people who oppose same-sex marriage is scheduled for Monday in Annapolis. A hearing on the legislation is scheduled for Tuesday.

—  John Wright

N.Y. Republican on gay marriage: ‘F**k it. I’m trying to do the right thing’

As we reported here on Instant Tea, the New York Senate appears to be just one vote shy of the majority needed to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in that state. And one reason marriage supporters are so close to the magic number of 32 is because one Republican, Sen. Roy McDonald, decided it was time to throw partisanship out the window and “do the right thing.”

New York Sen.Roy McDonald

According to this post on TMZ.com, in announcing his decision earlier this week to vote for marriage equality, McDonald declared:

“You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing. You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, fuck it. I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I’m trying to do the right thing, and that’s where I’m going with this.”

Well, I say, you go, Sen. McDonald. It’s about time somebody actually pointed out that this is an issue of fairness and equality; partisan politics shouldn’t matter, and neither should some individuals’ personal religious beliefs. What matters is doing the right thing.

Marriage equality supporters — and I am one — appreciate all the New York senators who are backing the marriage bill there. But when someone is willing to step out and state their support in such unequivocal terms and to stress that they support marriage equality because it is the right thing to do as McDonald did, then they deserve some special thanks.

—  admin

UPDATE: New York Assembly passes gay marriage bill — again

As David Taffet noted here earlier today, New York’s Senate appears to be one vote shy of the number needed to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. But the New York Daily News is reporting that the state’s Assembly has voted again to approve the legislation.

The Assembly has voted three times before to legalize gay marriage. In today’s vote, the measure passed 80-63, the lowest margin by which it has passed since it was first approved in 2007.

 

—  admin

Cuomo introduces same-sex marriage bill

Danny O’Donnell

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced marriage equality legislation today.

According to the Albany Times Union, Cuomo’s bill wouldn’t have been sent to the state Senate if the governor didn’t believe he had the votes for it to pass. This is the last week the bill can be considered before the end of the legislative session.

Among the exemptions in the bill is the right for clergy to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. Activists say state law already allows clergy to decide whom they will marry.

In addition to churches, private facilities may decide who may rent from them. If they do not want to rent to a couple for a wedding reception, they don’t have to. The law also shields them from prosecution.

Danny O’Donnell, a gay member of the New York Assembly, said none of this would change existing law. O’Donnell said he didn’t include this wording in his own version because it only references laws already on the books.

New York City’s conservative Daily News emphasized the Catholic Church’s opposition along with other groups with ironic names like New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms. But a poll on the site showed that 77 percent of respondents favor marriage equality.

—  David Taffet

LEGE UPDATE: Trans marriage ban on life support; suicide prevention bill advances

Daniel Williams

Acrimony in the House, the return of a transphobic Senate bill and renewed hope for community input in HIV programs marked the 18th week of the Texas Legislature’s regular session, one of the most contentious thus far.

The House had its first Saturday meeting of the session last week, and it set the tone for everything to come. House rules require 100 members to be present to establish a quorum. When the 10 a.m. meeting started, only 113 members were in the House chamber. Democrats realized that, just by walking out, they could end the business of the House, which included controversial “loser pays” changes to how lawsuits work in Texas. The legislation had already been defeated but was placed back on the House’s to-do list by GOP Gov. Rick Perry, who declared it an “emergency item.”

While the Democrats where contemplating a walk-out, Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, the author of Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, asked for a roll call, which would have locked the House doors, preventing any members from leaving. Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, then asked about sending state troopers out to find the missing members, some of whom had gone home to celebrate Mother’s Day. A debate erupted over a threat by Republicans to “set aside the rules” using their two-thirds super majority and prevent all debate on future bills. Tempers flared. At one point Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, who is known for his even disposition, literally threw his House rule book across the room.

Things eventually settled and the House continued its business, eventually passing the contentious lawsuit legislation without allowing debate. The hurt feelings and bruised relationships would continue to influence business in the House for the rest of the week.

On Monday, Senate Bill 723, the anti-transgender marriage bill that’s been lurking on the Senate’s schedule for a month, was put back on the the “intent calendar” for Tuesday. The intent calendar is a fast-track list of bills that require two-thirds of Senators to agree to bring them up for a vote. Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign, the Transgender Education Network of Texas and other groups issued alerts to LGBT Texans to call their senators in hopes of finally defeating the bill.

—  admin

New York may be next to legalize gay marriage

Evan Wolfson

Rhode Island considering civil unions; efforts under way in 6 states to ban gay marriage

DANA RUDOLPH | Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

The openly gay sponsor of a marriage equality bill in Rhode Island said last week he would push for a civil unions bill instead, setting off a slew of criticism from LGBT groups.

Six states are considering legislation that would ask voters to amend their state constitutions to ban recognition of any legal relationships for same-sex couples. And all this was on the heels of a dramatic loss for a marriage equality bill in Maryland in March.

Has the state legislative fight for marriage equality lost momentum?

Not according to Evan Wolfson, executive director of the national Freedom to Marry group.

“Both Rhode Island and Maryland are very much still in play,” said Wolfson. “. . . The fact that we don’t win it exactly on the day we want . . . doesn’t change the overall momentum that is strongly in our direction.”

The “highest priority” right now, said Wolfson, is New York. He said he is “very hopeful” a marriage bill that is expected to pass the New York State Assembly, which is under Democratic control, will also pass the Senate, where Republicans hold a 32-to-26 majority.

Wolfson acknowledges the Senate may be more difficult. While a marriage equality bill passed the Assembly three times in the past four years, an attempt to pass it in the Senate in 2009 failed by 14 votes.

New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican who opposes marriage equality, has nevertheless said he would let a marriage equality bill come to the floor.

And several recent polls show that a majority of voters in the state support marriage equality. A Siena College poll April 11 showed that 58 percent of New Yorkers support it, with 36 percent opposed. An April 14 Quinnipiac poll showed 56 percent support, with 38 percent opposed, and a New York Times estimated projection on the same date also showed 58 percent support.

Additionally, two dozen New York business leaders, including Lloyd C. Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, and John Mack, chairman of the board of Morgan Stanley, on April 28 issued an open letter arguing that legalizing marriage for same-sex couples would help the state attract talent and remain competitive.

“Winning New York would really be transformative,” said Wolfson, “because New York has enormous cultural and political leadership in the United States and in the world.”

Freedom to Marry and several other LGBT advocacy groups — the Empire State Pride Agenda, the Human Rights Campaign, the League of Women Voters, the Log Cabin Republicans and Marriage Equality New York — have formed the New Yorkers United for Marriage coalition, which is coordinating efforts to lobby for the marriage equality bill this session, which adjourns in June.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has expressed strong support for passing such a bill this year, has asked members of his staff to work with the coalition.

In Rhode Island, openly gay Democratic House Speaker Gordon Fox, a sponsor of that state’s marriage bill, said in a statement April 27 that “there is no realistic chance for passage of the bill in the Senate,” and that he will not move forward with a vote in the House.

But the Providence Journal newspaper also reported that Fox said he did not have the votes to pass the bill even in the House, where Democrats hold 65 seats to Republicans’ 10.

Fox instead introduced a bill for civil unions on Tuesday, May 3, and said he is “optimistic” that the bill could pass both chambers this session.
But Fox’s decision has not gone over well with LGBT groups.

Marriage Equality Rhode Island, which supports full marriage, held a rally at the State House to protest Fox’s decision to drop the marriage equality bill. Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and others, issued statements criticizing Fox’s decision and calling it “completely unacceptable.”

“Nothing short of marriage is equality for Rhode Island’s gay and lesbian citizens and their children,” said Karen Loewy, a GLAD senior staff attorney. “More to the point, civil unions tell gay people and their kids that they are second-class citizens and that their families matter less than other families.”

Wolfson called Fox’s decision a “miscalculation.” He noted that polls show a majority of support among voters, that Rhode Island already recognizes marriages of same-sex couples performed elsewhere, and that nearby Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont all began with civil unions and have moved to full equality.

Similar to Rhode Island, marriage equality supporters never had a clear majority in Maryland either, even with the support of Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat. The bill passed the Senate in Maryland, but on March 11, the House voted unanimously to send the bill back to committee.

But in Maryland, several LGBT groups, including Equality Maryland, the leading state organization behind the bill, expressed approval for the move.
Wolfson noted, however, that Maryland was “within a couple of votes” of passage. With “a little more time to make the case and organize,” he thinks achieving equality could happen in early 2012.

Meanwhile, three states have enacted civil union laws this year — Delaware, Hawaii and Illinois. Wolfson said that, while civil unions are not the true goal, they still “sometimes can be a stepping stone.”

Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal, agreed, saying that civil unions “are an important step forward” in states where same-sex couples have no benefits or protections. She added that Lambda is “often very involved,” as it was in Illinois, in drafting such legislation.

But Lambda also brought a suit before the New Jersey state Supreme Court claiming the state’s civil union law did not provide full equality. The court last June refused to hear the case, saying it must first go through the trial court process.

Taylor said she could not say whether Lambda would be filing any further cases to contest civil unions, noting that it is important in each state to first “develop a record of the ways in which it harms people to deny them equal access to marriage.”

Six states — Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington — also have active legislation that would ask voters to amend the state constitutions to ban marriage, and in some cases, recognition of any legal relationships, such as civil unions for same-sex couples.

New Mexico and Wyoming both considered but did not pass such bills this year. Wyoming also rejected a bill that sought to prevent the state from recognizing marriages and civil unions of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions.

Washington state has seen a mish-mash of marriage-related bills. The state already allows same-sex couples to register as domestic partners and, on Feb. 14, bills were introduced in both chambers of the legislature for marriage equality.

On April 5, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, signed a bill to recognize legal relationships of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions as domestic partnerships. But there is also a bill in the House that would ask voters to ban marriage for same-sex couples under the state constitution.

Democrats have a majority in both chambers.

The situation in New Hampshire is also mixed. A House committee voted March 3 to table a bill that would repeal the state’s existing marriage equality law, thus postponing further consideration until January 2012.

But opponents of marriage equality have said they will also introduce a bill next year seeking to ask voters in November 2012 to approve amending the state constitution to ban marriage for same-sex couples.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Maryland marriage bill dead for the year

An Associated Press article posted online by The Washington Post is saying that the decision in the Maryland House of Delegates today send to send the Civil Marriage Protection Act back to the House Judiciary Committee has effectively killed the legislation for this year.

According to the article, supporters chose to send the bill back to committee rather than take a final vote because they did not believe they had the 71 votes necessary to pass the measure. House Speaker Michael Busch said supporters will try again next year.

Marriage equality opponents, of course, claimed the outcome as a victory.

—  admin

Maryland House sends marriage bill back to committee; no word on what happens next

After three hours of debate on a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state, Maryland House of Delegates Chairman Del. Joseph Vallario today sent the Civil Marriage Protection Act back to the House’s Judiciary Committee.

The move came during the final reading of the bill. Delegates were expected to vote on the measure today. Supporters were sure of getting only 69 ot 70 of the 71 votes the bill needed to pass in the House. It has already passed in the Senate, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he will sign it into law if it reaches his desk.

Immediately after the bill was sent back to committee, the LGBT rights organization Equality Maryland sent out a press release containing statements attributed to “the staff and board of Equality Maryland; Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director, and Charles Butler, board president,” saying that while they are disappointed the House did not pass the measure 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,” the Equality Maryland statement said.

I have seen no explanation yet of what happens now with the bill.

 

—  admin

Catholics For Equality urging support for marriage equality bill in Maryland

The Maryland House of Delegates is expected to take up consideration of the same-sex marriage bill there about 11 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time, I assume) on Friday, and according to Maryland Catholics for Equality, “out-of-state anti-gay calls are flooding Annapolis” to try and get the bill defeated.

So the organization is urging pro-equality Maryland residents to be sure and call their delegates to counteract the anti-gay forces.

In an e-mail that just hit my inbox, Maryland Catholics for Equality say: “Call NOW and let your Delegates know three important things: you are an actual constituent (not out of state), you are Catholic, and that you stand with the majority of Catholics in Maryland in support of HB175 — Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act. Ask them not to bow down to out of state pressure.”

The measure has already passed the Maryland Senate and Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he will sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk. But things are close in the House of Delegates, where the bill was initially expected to pass easily.

If you aren’t a resident of Maryland, don’t cheat by calling the delegates and saying you are. But keep an eye on Instant Tea tomorrow, and we’ll let you know what happens.

—  admin

UPDATE: Gay marriage bill gets final approval in Maryland Senate

We told you yesterday that the Maryland Senate had given preliminary approval to legislation giving legal recognition to same-sex marriage in that state. Now comes word from GayPolitics.com that the Senate has given final approval to the measure. The final vote, just like the preliminary vote, was 25-21, according to NPR.

The bill now heads to the Maryland House of Delegates and if it is approved there, it will go to Gov. Martin O’Malley who must sign it before it becomes law. If that happens, it will make Maryland the sixth U.S. state to recognize gay marriage.

—  admin