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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 17, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 07
Maryland marriage bill passes House committee
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Maryland marriage bill passes House committee

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Maryland's marriage equality bill cleared a key hurdle on February 14, as it passed a House of Delegates joint committee by a 25-18 vote.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, a marriage equality supporter, expressed satisfaction with the vote.

'Today's vote is a significant step forward and we'll continue to work to get the bill passed,' he tweeted after the vote.

On February 10, O'Malley testified before a joint session of the House Judiciary and Health and Government Operations Committees.

'It is not right or just that the children of Gay couples should have lesser protections than the children of other families in our state,' O'Malley told the panel.

'Nor would it be right to force religious institutions to conduct marriages that conflict with their own religious beliefs and teachings.'

O'Malley urged Maryland lawmakers to follow legislatures in seven other states - most recently New York and Washington - that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

'We have the opportunity to do the same thing,' O'Malley told the joint committee.

O'Malley attended the hearing with two African American ministers, who also testified in favor of the legislation.

O'Malley's appearance was part of what the Washington Post described as a 'grueling 11-hour hearing' featuring emotional arguments from both supporters and opponents of marriage equality.

O'Malley's motives were challenged by a fellow Democrat, Delegate Emmett Burns Jr., an opponent of marriage equality. Burns said he was 'surprised and shocked' that the governor would support a 'divisive' measure when Maryland has pressing economic problems.

Burns suggested that O'Malley wanted to bolster his chances to run for national office in 2016. Burns also implied that O'Malley had bought the testimony of the ministers who accompanied him.

'I don't know what he's promised them or what he's told them,' Burns said. 'There is something wrong with men marrying men and women marrying women.'

Delman Coates, one of the two ministers and a senior pastor at Mount Ennon Baptist Church, replied that his personal beliefs about same-sex relationships were not the issue.

'The public policy question for me is simply whether Gay and Lesbian residents of this state deserve the same rights and benefits as the rest of us,' Coates said.

'For me, the answer to that question is a resounding 'yes.'

Later in the hearing, Delegate Luiz R.S. Simmons cross examined a panel of religious leaders opposed to marriage equality about their reasons for opposition.

Simmons suggested they were only interested in imposing their religious beliefs on others.

'I have heard no evidence at all how same-sex marriage affects your families, the church. & There's not a syllable of evidence. You just don't like it,' Simmons said.

Stephen Reilly, an Annapolis business owner, said he had been raised by a Lesbian couple from the age of 14. His biological father left the family when he was 2, Reilly said, and his stepfather committed suicide when he was 13.

'I'd like to say the best dad I ever had is a woman,' Reilly told the joint committee.

He encouraged the panel to spend a day 'with me and my family and see how normal we are.'

The bill is now cleared to go the floor of the House of Delegates. The Washington Blade reports the House will take it up Friday, February 17. The Washington Post says Maryland's Senate may hold hearings on the bill as early as February 17.

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