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Friday, March 4, 2011

Sam Arora's disgraceful wavering on marriage equality in Maryland

By Jonathan Capehart -

Around 9:00 a.m. Thursday, Maryland House Del. Sam Arora (D-Montgomery County) -- who raised a ton of cash from the gay community and progressives based on his stance on marriage equality and who is a co-sponsor of the same-sex marriage bill now about to come up for a vote -- tweeted, "Hearing from constituents, friends. Please keep sending your thoughts ( Thinking & praying hard." And he's been catching hell on his Facebook page ever since.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Arora has said he will vote for the marriage equality bill in the judiciary committee, but has yet to commit to voting for the measure when it hits the floor, possibly next week. "This bill deserves an up-or-down vote, so I'm voting to send it to the floor," he told the Sun. That sudden reluctance to say he will vote for a bill he co-sponsored has friends mystified and former supporters fuming, at best, calling him a liar and demanding their donations back, at worst.

Even Arora's friends from Democratic Party politics and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign are mystified. Democratic strategist Karen Finney called his apparent change of heart "[v]ery disappointing" in a post on Arora's Facebook page. And Neera Tanden, policy director for Clinton's campaign and then the domestic policy adviser on the Obama-Biden campaign, is among those who wants her contribution refunded.
I am profoundly disappointed that supporting marriage equality is even a question for Sam. This isn't the Sam I knew and worked with, or supported in his campaign. I am asking him to return my contribution to his campaign.
I should point out that Arora received the endorsement of The Washington Post last October.
One clue to how he might vote was just noticed by the folks at AMERICAblog Gay. A Tweet from Arora on Jan. 25 championing his co-sponsorship of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act was deleted from his Twitter feed. Arora hasn't responded to my request to talk yet. If he does, I would ask him about that deleted Tweet. I would also want him to confirm reports by AMERICAblog Gay that he has already decided against voting for the marriage equality bill due to pressure from his church and because he doesn't want to "redefine marriage."
The outrage directed at Arora is understandable. As is the sense of betrayal. He raised money from gays and lesbians based on his support for marriage equality. He secured the endorsements of Progressive Maryland and of Equality Maryland because of it. In fact, get a load of what he wrote as an addendum to his questionnaire for Equality Maryland.
I am a former law clerk to Attorney General Doug Gansler. I publicly supported his decision to recognize out-of-state marriage licenses for same-sex couples and immediately put out a release praising his findings. For me, it's simply a matter of equal rights under the law.
Gay Marylanders want the respect, dignity and responsibility that comes with marriage. And Arora was elected to his first term in the House of Delegates, in part, because of his promise to get it done. Politicians break promises all the time. But this is different. If Arora fails to vote for the marriage equality bill he campaigned for and co-sponsored when it comes to the floor next week not only would it be disgraceful, he would be a disgrace.


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