Will black Obama supporters defeat marriage equality in states like Maryland in November?

President Barack Obama

The Maryland Senate voted 25-22 today to legalize same-sex marriage, and the bill now heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, who will sign it. However, the new law won’t take effect until January, which allows opponents to put a referendum on the ballot in November if they can gather 55,736 signatures.

Meanwhile, in Maine, the secretary of state has confirmed enough valid signatures from same-sex marriage supporters to get the issue on the November ballot. In 2009, Maine voters rejected marriage equality by 53 percent to 47 percent, but polls show a majority now support it.

In any case, it now appears almost certain that marriage equality will be on the ballot in at least a handful of states this year. And gay activist John Aravosis at Americablog says that’s why it’s critical for President Barack Obama to hurry up and complete his evolution on the issue:

The President obviously wants us all to get out the vote in November. But there are key constituencies with whom the President has great sway, and who are not terribly good on gay rights issues as compared to other Democrats. Why does that matter?  Well, take Maryland.  Maryland will likely see an effort on the November ballot to repeal the just-passed marriage equality legislation.  Nearly a third of Marylanders are African-American.  And black Democrats in Maryland are twice as opposed to same-sex marriage as white Democrats in the state.

—  John Wright

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

Log Cabin Republicans share the Hilton Anatole with the right-wing Heritage Foundation

A recorded message from Dallas GOP Congressman Pete Sessions is played during the Log Cabin Republicans National Convention earlier today. More pics after the jump.

It was an interesting scene over at the Hilton Anatole today. Downstairs in the massive Atrium, where I found myself lost at least once, a conservative D.C.-based think tank called the Heritage Foundation was hosting a convention featuring tables sponsored by groups like the “Alliance for School Choice” and “Online for Life.”

Meanwhile, upstairs on the mezzanine in smaller conference rooms, the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans was quietly holding its National Convention. And when Dallas GOP Congressman Pete Sessions creepily appeared on the projector to deliver a recorded welcome message during Log Cabin’s lunch program, I couldn’t help but wonder if I might be in the wrong room.

After all, though, these two groups would probably agree on a lot of issues — limited government, strong national defense, etc. They just happen to disagree on one rather big one — the gays — and ultimately I guess that’s what Log Cabin is all about.

“There are a lot of Republican legislators who believe like we do,” GOP Maryland Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, who’s straight, told Log Cabin during the lunch program. “We just have to convince them it’s OK. They’re scared.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Maryland Senate kills gender identity bill; anti-gay hate crime at UNC

Quinn Matney was attacked and severely burned in an anti-gay hate crime at the University of North Carolina.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. For a third straight week, LGBT advocates plan to speak during the Dallas County Commissioners Court’s meeting today and call on commissioners to add transgender employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy. Last month, commissioners voted to add sexual orientation but not gender identity to the policy. The Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. in the County Administration Building, 411 Elm St.

2. The Maryland Senate on Monday voted to kill a measure that would have protected transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment and credit — but not public accommodations. The vote marks the second major disappointment this year for LGBT advocates in Maryland, where the House thwarted a marriage equality bill last month.

3. A University of North Carolina freshman says he was attacked and severely burned in an anti-gay hate crime on the school’s campus last week. The UNC administration, which failed to notify students until a week after the attack occurred, now says it plans to report the incident as an anti-gay hate crime to the federal government.

—  John Wright

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

What’s Brewing: Craigslist congressman sought trans women; Maryland marriage bill in jeopardy

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Republican Congressman Chris Lee, who abruptly resigned Feb. 9 after Gawker published his shirtless Craigslist photos, wasn’t only looking for cisgender women with whom to have adulterous sex. Gawker now reports that Lee had also posted an ad (above) seeking “passable” transsexual or cross-dressing women, which could explain why he resigned so quickly. It could also seriously complicate Lee’s efforts to smooth things over with his wife.

2. A marriage equality bill that passed the Maryland Senate last week is suddenly in jeopardy in the House, where it was once thought to be assured of passage. The Washington Blade reports that the bill is short of the 71 votes it needs, with at least one former co-sponsor having caved under enormous pressure from the religious right.

3. The King’s Speech was the big winner Sunday night at the Oscars, taking home five awards including best picture, best director and best actor. For a complete list of results from the 83rd annual Academy Awards, go here.

—  John Wright

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

More good news: Maryland Senate approves marriage equality bill in preliminary vote

The Washington Blade reports:

The Maryland Senate voted 25-22 in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples today. It was a preliminary vote that followed debate over amendments. Final passage of the bill in the chamber could come Thursday.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Anti-gay bill clears Montana House; Maryland Senate takes up marriage

Nathan Bowen

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Montana House approved a bill that would nullify local LGBT discrimination protections. “Missoula’s Democratic legislators were infuriated by the passage of House Bill 516, by Rep. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre. Her bill passed 60-39 and faces a final House vote before heading to the Senate. Sixty Republicans voted for it. All 32 Democrats voted opposed it, joined by seven Republicans. One Republican was absent.”

2. The president of a GLBT center in Enid, Okla., is accused of sexually molesting a 15-year-old. “According to EnidGLBT.org, Nathan Bowen is President of the Enid GLBT Community Center located in the 1300 block of S. Van Buren Street. According to the police report, Bowen and the victim began texting each other sexual messages after the victim met Bowen on Friday. The molestation incident happened on Sunday after Bowen allegedly picked up the minor at a park and took him to a home in the area.”

3. The Maryland Senate will begin debate on a marriage equality bill today: “Debate on the contentious measure to allow same-sex couples to marry is expected to run into Wednesday evening and carry over to Thursday. Miller has told senators to clear their weekend schedules in case an expected filibuster extends into Saturday. The bill, which would repeal Maryland’s definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, is widely expected to clear the Senate — but there are no guarantees. Twenty-four senators have declared their support for the measure, the minimum needed for final passage.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Marriage advances in Maryland; DADT training under way; Britney Spears video

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A Maryland Senate panel on Thursday advanced marriage equality legislation that now appears to have enough votes to pass the full chamber — but just barely. If the Senate approves the measure, it is expected to pass the House and be signed by the governor, which would make Maryland the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, in addition to the District of Columbia.

2. Training is under way in all four military service branches to prepare for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The Army, the largest service branch, kicked off DADT repeal training Wednesday and is expected to take the longest to complete it — until mid-August.

3. Another week, another big gay pop music release. Britney Spears’ new video for “Hold It Against Me” is above.

—  John Wright