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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gay Marriage Likely to Become Law This Year in Maryland

By Steve Weinstein -

Maryland lawmakers reintroduced a same-sex marriage on Jan. 20, and the governor, Martin O’Malley, has indicated he will sign it into law. Considering the heavy Democratic advantage in the Annapolis Statehouse, it’s a fairly good bet that the Free State will join five others and the neighboring District of Columbia.

O’Malley is an advocate of civil unions over marriage, but, he told a radio station last summer while campaigning for the office, that if the Legislature "were to reach a compromise in another way, I would sign a bill like that."

HB-55, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, was introduced by Delegate Luis Simmons and 16 co-sponsors. The Washington Times reported that the bill has a carve-out so that anti-gay marriage clergy do not have to perform such marriages. The so-called carve-out exemption is common in other states with legalized gay marriage on the books.

State Sen. Rich Magdaleno, an openly gay senator from the Washington suburbs, will introduce a similar bill in the upper house.

In an indication of how popular gay marriage has become in Maryland, the GOP minority leader withdrew from that position because his own views differ from the party’s stated objections to gay marriage.

The Washington Blade reported that State Sen. Allan Kittleman planned to actively support civil unions. "I’m a social moderate and I wanted to stand up for what I believe in," he told the Baltimore Sun. "It’s more important for me to stay true to my beliefs than it is for me to be the minority leader."

The head of the state’s major gay-rights activist group, Equality Maryland, praised Kittleman for "an incredibly brave and important move on his part to stand by his principles."

Freedom to Marry will hold a joint news conference with Equality Maryland in Annapolis, the state capital, on Jan. 25 to support the full marriage bill.

Not surprisingly,the National Organization for Marriage has also announced plans to move into the state with ads opposing the bill. As reported here, NOM plans a full-on assault in Rhode Island, another state where gay marriage looks likely to become law this year.

Even so, Maryland looks more than hopeful to become another domino falling in the march toward gay marriage. Delegate Maggie McIntosh sent an email to constituents in which, she said, "I am pleased to say 2011 is the first year that I feel a civil marriage bill can and will pass in the Maryland Senate."

Nearly a year ago, the state’s attorney general ruled that the state would recognize out-of-state gay marriages there.
EDGE Editor-in-Chief Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early ’80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007). 

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