Hours after being vetoed in N.J., same-sex marriage advances in Maryland

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a marriage equality bill Friday evening with a bare minimum of 71 votes to 67. But it did so under the threat of a referendum, and it did so just hours after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie followed through on his promise to veto a marriage equality bill passed by that state’s Legislature on Thursday.

Visitors crowded into the Maryland House erupted into a loud and sustained cheer as the House clerk noted that 71 delegates had voted for the bill.

The vote came after hours of emotional debate that sounded, at times, like a series of sermons — with delegates declaring what they said God has ordained as marriage and warning that same-sex marriage would open the door to polygamy and marriages with children and that it would encourage children to become gay.

Delegate Kathy Afzali, a Republican, said a Democrat in the House begged her to vote against the bill because “it has caused so many churches to split and fracture.” And Republican Michael Smeigiel urged a “no” vote, saying the marriage equality bill would be divisive and that the Legislature should give same-sex couples civil unions.

The Maryland Senate, which passed the bill last year and is likely to do so again this year, is expected to vote in the near future. The bill was sponsored by Maryland’s Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley.

A key vote appeared to be that of Delegate Tiffany Alston, a Democrat from suburban Washington, D.C. Alston said she supported the bill last year but that her constituents opposed it so she voted against it. She said she was supporting and voting for the bill this year because the House adopted her amendment to enable a referendum on the issue.

The Alston amendment delays implementation of the new law until any litigation surrounding a possible referendum is resolved and states that, if any part of the law is “held invalid for any reason in a court of competent jurisdiction,” the entire law shall be made null and void.

The bill also won the support of a key Republican, Delegate A. Wade Kach of Baltimore, who backed the bill after getting approval of an amendment moving the effective date of the bill back from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1. Kach said he wanted to ensure that the bill did not have any impact on the November elections.

The House rejected numerous other amendments, including one that would have enabled parents to opt out their children from receiving any sex education that mentioned same-sex marriages; one that prohibited a minor from marrying a person of the same sex; one that sought to require a constitutional amendment allowing same-sex partners to marry; and one that sought to allow for civil unions only.

The vote in the Maryland House of Delegates had been expected on Thursday, Feb. 16, but a flood of amendments and the sudden hospitalization of one of the bill’s supporters pushed that back until Friday. The chamber, which has 141 delegates, needed 71 to pass the bill.

Many opponents of the measure warned during debate that they would seek a referendum on the measure, if passed. Referenda law in Maryland requires that opponents of laws enacted by the Legislature and signed by the governor file 55,736 valid signatures by May 31.

In New Jersey, Christie issued a “conditional veto” against the marriage equality bill there, saying he would create an “Ombudsman for Civil Unions” to “ensure equal treatment under the law.”

Supporters of the marriage bill said they would begin the process to seek votes to overturn Christie’s veto. They will need 27 in the Senate (where the bill passed with 24 votes) and 54 in the Assembly (where it passed with 42). But the Legislature can take two years to overturn that veto.

There is little expectation that supporters of the marriage equality law will seek a referendum in New Jersey, as Christie suggested.
Christie, in his veto statement, said “an issue of this magnitude and importance … requires a constitutional amendment [and] should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide.”

“I continue to encourage the Legislature to trust the people of New Jersey and seek their input by allowing our citizens to vote on a question that represents a profoundly significant societal change,” said Christie. “This is the only path to amend our State Constitution and the best way to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in our state.”

Unexpectedly, Christie also emphasized his commitment to non-discrimination through his veto statement.

“I have been just as adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples — as well as the strict enforcement of those rights and benefits,” said Christie. “Discrimination should not be tolerated and any complaint alleging a violation of a citizen’s right should be investigated and, if appropriate, remedied. To that end, I include in my conditional veto the creation of a strong Ombudsman for Civil Unions to carry on New Jersey’s strong tradition of tolerance and fairness. The Ombudsman will be charged with increasing awareness of the law regarding civil unions, will provide a clear point of contact for those who have questions or concerns and will be required to report any evidence of the law being violated. In this way, we can ensure equal treatment under the law.”

Lambda Legal Defense still has a lawsuit pending in state court, challenging the validity of the existing civil unions law.

© 2012 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

No marriage vote in Maryland House today; Maryland delegate comes out as gay

Although some had expected the Maryland House of Delegates to vote today on a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in that state, The Washington Blade is reporting that the vote won’t be happening today. However, a committee hearing on a measure to prohibit discrimination in employment and housing based on gender identity is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. today.

According to the Blade, the House has adjourned for the day, but not before supporters of the measure were able to kill four hostile amendments that would have weakened the bill or killed it outright.

One of the amendments would have allowed religious institutions to refuse to allow same-sex parents to adopt (defeated by those who pointed out it had nothing to do with marriage), while a second would have renamed the bill the Same-Sex Marriage Act.

A third amendment would have changed the measure into a constitutional amendment, thus forcing it back into committee where it would have died; and the fourth amendment would have allowed parents to take their children out of public school health classes including information on same-sex marriage and would have allowed teachers in public schools to refuse to include such information in their classroom curricula.

The House is set to reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday morning.

Del. Peter Murphy of Maryland, left, and former Texas state Rep. Glen Maxey

In other news out of the Maryland House, also from the Blade, Democratic Delegate Peter Murphy on Tuesday night publicly acknowledged that he is gay. Murphy, a divorced father of two with grandchildren, said that his family and colleagues have known he is gay for years, and that he has never denied his sexuality orientation. “I just presumed people knew,” he told the Washington LGBT paper.

Murphy’s announcement brings the total of openly LGBT Maryland delegates to seven. The state also has one openly gay senator.

Texas, by the way, has had only one openly LGBT state lawmaker, and that was Glen Maxey who has been out of office since 2003. Maxey was first elected in 1991 to represent the Austin-area district that had previously been represented by Lena Guerrero. Before running for the House, Maxey was the first executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas (now known as Equality Texas), and since leaving public office, he has worked as a lobbyist and campaign consultant. He ran for Travis County tax assessor-collector in 2007, but lost the Democratic Primary to incumbent Nelda Wells Spears.

—  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