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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MD GOP State Lawmaker Seeks Civil Unions Law

By Killian Melloy -

Allan H. Kittleman
Inspired by his own father’s work in the civil rights movement, a Maryland Republican state lawmaker has taken up the cause of civil unions for gay and lesbian families in his state.

Senate Minority Leader Allan H. Kittleman said on Jan. 5 that he would sponsor a bill to extend civil partnerships to gay and straight couples, the Washington Post reported that same day.

"I am a strong believer in personal liberty and freedom," Kittleman stated. "I believe that we have an opportunity to make Maryland a more fair state, a more just state and a state which treats all of its citizens equally under the law." The proposed law would be designed to "protect the rights of religious institutions to define marriage as they choose," while providing many of the same protections to gay and lesbian families that heterosexuals are granted automatically through marriage.

The article said that the results of the last election had created a more favorable political climate in the state for such a bill.

According to a Jan. 5 article, Kittleman’s original idea was simply to extend state-level marriage equality to gay and lesbian families. But in recognition of the political difficulty of seeing such a bill through to law, the state senator changed his goal to the securing of civil unions. Still, Kittleman does not see that as a watering down of the bill. "I don’t want people to think it’s separate but unequal," he told the media in an interview prior to sending out a news release about the bill.

"If government gets out of the marriage business and focuses on civil unions, then I’m hopeful that some of the controversy... will dissipate, and we can focus on civil unions for everybody while preserving the sanctity of marriage," Kittleman said. The state senator noted that he had received support from lawmakers in both political parties.

The article said that Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, the late father of Allan Kittleman, had put his weight behind efforts to secure racial equality. Supporting equality before the law for gay and lesbian families is a matter of carrying on a family tradition.

But some of Kittleman’s fellow GOP lawmakers indicated little interest in advancing legal equality for sexual minorities. "I think it’s just opening up a can of worms," Sen.-elect J.B. Jennings said, Gazette.Net reported in a follow-up article on Jan. 10. "We all have our own independent views. Not all Republicans agree with each other all the time. It happens in both parties."

"It’s going to bring him some blow-back in some way, shape or form," predicted Senate Minority Whip David R. Brinkley, "but that’s the prerogative of every member of the legislature to introduce something."

Others slammed the bill as marriage by another name. "A rose by any other name is still a rose," State Delegate Steven R. Schuh told the press.

At the same time, equality advocates were critical of Kittleman’s bill for not proposing marriage. "I’m getting some flak from both sides," said the lawmaker.
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

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