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January 21, 2011

Gay marriage legislation filed in General Assembly

Lawmakers have already put together several bills to legalize same-sex unions -- ensuring the topic will see robust debate in the Maryland General Assembly's 90-day session that began last week. Advocates, and even many legislative leaders, believe some form of gay marriage or civil unions will pass this year.

This morning, Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola of Montgomery County introduced the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act (SB116), the preferred plan of gay-rights activists. The legislation would permit same-sex couples to marry but would not require churches to perform the unions.

The House version of that bill is scheduled to be introduced next week by House Majority Leader Kumar Barve of Montgomery County. Equality Maryland, the majority leaders and other lawmakers and same-sex couples will promote the twin bills at a press conference Tuesday in Annapolis.  

Also percolating this year is Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons' Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act (HB55), which carries the same name as the majority leaders' bill but appears to be slightly different. Simmons is a Montgomery County Democrat and a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which will listen to testimony on all of the marriage bills.

The most vocal supporter of an alternative to gay marriage -- civil unions -- this year has been Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, a Howard County Republican. Kittleman said he believes that gay and straight couples alike should be able to enter civil contracts that solidify their partnerships. He resigned this week as Senate minority leader when it became clear that the 11 other Republicans in his caucus do not share that view. 

Gay-rights activists have praised Kittleman's proposal, which does not appear to have been filed yet, as a step in the right direction. But a civil unions plan falls short, they say, because same-sex couples are treated differently than straight ones.

Opponents are gearing up, as well. This morning, Del. Don H. Dwyer Jr., an Anne Arundel County Republican, was talking to fellow colleagues about a bill he will soon introduce to counteract Maryland's new policy of extending marriage protections to same-sex unions that were lawfully performed in other states.

Last year, Dwyer was the leading opponent of an opinion produced by Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler saying the state should recognize those unions even though marriage is defined in Maryland law as between a man and a woman.

Dwyer's coming legislation would establish that marriage between a man and a woman is the only legally valid union in the state. 

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 12:33 PM | | Comments (36)
Categories: 2011 legislative session, Families
        

Comments

...and while we continue to debate this issue (which again will lead nowhere) the state budget deficit grows larger.

As a gay couple who have already been married for 28 years, this is a long time coming. We are VERY appreciative of the legislators who are sponsoring and supporting SB116.
We pray that 2011 will provide us with the same rights as all other Marylanders.

Mr. Dwyer, we pray for your angry and misguided soul.

I find it funny, Right wingers say no marriage to them. But there is a whole generation of hetro's who arent marrying.
Why?
Simple a generation watched divorce happen to either their parents or somebody else they knew got divorced.
So its a little to late to "save marriage". Let them have it because god knows this generation is smart enough to know marriage is bad idea, that ends in nasty ways.

As a new resident of Anne Arundel County, I know for whom I am NOT voting for next time.

It is rather odd to read the posts here advocating for unequal treatment of U.S. citizens written by people who would present that inequity as a moral argument.

It's the opposite of morality, folks.

No matter what god told you.

Support Delegate Dwyer so he can help Defend Maryland Marriage.

Good comment Bill. My partner and I are Law Enforcement and Mental Health workers, respectively. We work hard in the state, we pay our taxes and recently bought a home in the State.

We deserve the federal benefits and protections that heterosexual couples have. I don't want a marriage in a church (too many evil things have been done in the name of religion for my taste)

I am cautiously optimistic.

Its amazing how we are fightn so hard for gay marriages/slots but our children are increasingly being omitted from the agenda.

sick people!!

Again with the primacy of the semantics involved over the underlying civil rights issues.

Call it "Aunt Martha's Marmalade" if that allows getting the CIVIL law aspects separated from the busybody holier than thou Church Lady bias' in opposition.

To the degree that advocates for change keep insisting on the use of their oppositions buzzword to define what they want... is the degree to which this topic will continue to fester without resolution.

The same civil law and civil process that results in a civil union should apply to any two people who would willingly enter into such a damned foolish arrangement... whether such includes the so called blessing or application of additional adjectives or even nouns by a religious entity as well or not.

Aren't there more important priorities?

Like fixing the economy?
State budget-deficit?
Education?
Lowering taxes?

I could go on...

Sex is a personal and private matter. Why are we even allowing discussion to change laws and the basis of the most basic of human relationships? Marriage is between one man and one woman. Those of the same gender that want "equal" treatment, do a will or living trust. Marriage laws should not be changed because there are those who choose to discuss their private sex lives and choices openly.

If there is same sex marriage, than we owe polygamists a "BIG" apology.

Charles Johnson-youre silly
Polygamay is actually closer to straight marriage than gays-
Marriage, by definition in this country, is secular-has nothing to do with a church unless you want it to
Sorry youre an ignorant bigot-marriage, as everyoen knows, was created for inheritance reasons before teh bible
You cant stop full equality
Sorry-the real God-the one of love for all-is guidng this country toward equality
And you cant stop it

@Jake: For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." - MLK Jr.

@Joe

Ah, taking Dr. King's words out of their constitutional context.

If only someone could tell me where in the United States Constitution it mentions the right to marry.

Sadly, ilk like the diminshed Dwyer even found a woman pathetic enough to marry him and then to procreate. Now, that is the real crime that should be outlawed.

First of all I want to say it is time for Maryland to give the same opportunity, rights, benefits and responsibilities to their gay sons and lesbian daughters who want to marry as they do their heterosexual sons and daughters. To do anything to the contrary is unconstitutional.

But, I do want to comment on the law itself. What a bogus name for a law. There is NO present or future danger of requiring churches to marry anyone a church does not want to marry. The church wedding as a religious “rite” or ceremony is a very different event from the civil contract of a marriage license. There are plenty of other people who can sign a marriage certificate besides a church minister. The fact the government allows ministers to do so is a nice and covenient accommodation, but in this case it only muddies the water.

Of course a couple who grew up with close ties to a particular denomination are likely going to want to have a ceremony in their own church. I urge denominations to continue to dialogue on this issue because it is important to their gay sons and lesbian daughters as well as their families. But, it is a totally and separate argument from the legality of a civil marriage license.

That is one of the problems with this debate, many folks parrot what the Catholic Church says on the matter forgetting that in the mind the Catholic Church there is no separation of Church and State. But in reality, in the U.S. marriage is a civil contract between two people and the government. The religious portion of it is a very different and separate event that the government or the law does not involve itself with.

What this legislative wording is doing is giving priority and thus “special preference” to churches where there is no reality that there is even a need for such preference. Now if a civil government employee refused to honor a civil marriage license based on religious beliefs that would be a different matter because they are acting on behalf of the government. However, there is no need for the particular accommodation for churches in this law, it is actually folly to write legislation that gives rights to the church where there is no danger those rights are going to be taken away. All that does is give power to those who spout false fears rather than facts into the argument.

First of all I want to say it is time for Maryland to give the same opportunity, rights, benefits and responsibilities to their gay sons and lesbian daughters who want to marry as they do their heterosexual sons and daughters. To do anything to the contrary is unconstitutional.

But, I do want to comment on the law itself. What a bogus name for a law. There is NO present or future danger of requiring churches to marry anyone a church does not want to marry. The church wedding as a religious “rite” or ceremony is a very different event from the civil contract of a marriage license. There are plenty of other people who can sign a marriage certificate besides a church minister. The fact the government allows ministers to do so is a nice and covenient accommodation, but in this case it only muddies the water.

Of course a couple who grew up with close ties to a particular denomination are likely going to want to have a ceremony in their own church. I urge denominations to continue to dialogue on this issue because it is important to their gay sons and lesbian daughters as well as their families. But, it is a totally and separate argument from the legality of a civil marriage license.

That is one of the problems with this debate, many folks parrot what the Catholic Church says on the matter forgetting that in the mind the Catholic Church there is no separation of Church and State. But in reality, in the U.S. marriage is a civil contract between two people and the government. The religious portion of it is a very different and separate event that the government or the law does not involve itself with.

What this legislative wording is doing is giving priority and thus “special preference” to churches where there is no reality that there is even a need for such preference. Now if a civil government employee refused to honor a civil marriage license based on religious beliefs that would be a different matter because they are acting on behalf of the government. However, there is no need for the particular accommodation for churches in this law, it is actually folly to write legislation that gives rights to the church where there is no danger those rights are going to be taken away. All that does is give power to those who spout false fears rather than facts into the argument.

First, we allowed interracial marriage, now we are about to allow same-sex marriage....what is this country coming to??

One of tolerance and compassion, I hope.

Henry,

Thanks for your comment TWICE. Anyway, I'm glad the legislation makes a point to protect the first amendment rights of believers. We wouldn't want rights GIVEN to one group while TAKING rights away from another.

If Gay marriage should be ok. I think that family incest should be ok, those girls who practice prostution should be ok. Men Women who like to molested children should be ok. Sounds sick? So therefore Gay marraige should be ban because God create Adam Eve not Steve Eve. God made man and woman as couple for marriage.

Marriage is between a man and a woman. The fact that the ceremony can be performed in a church, does not make this a religious issue, but its really more basic. If marriage were intended to be between two men, or two women, artificial means would not be necessary for them to bring children into this world. Just a reminder that all gays were brought into this world from sperm and egg, not sperm on sperm, opr egg on egg

Remember the words of a wise man: "An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself"
This statement is as true today for this issue as it was then for civil rights.

As I look back and vividly recall in my childhood days i now realize something was wrong. I happened upon a booklet in my mother's dresser drawer. I was amazed at what I saw. Woman and men in the nude. I went whenever I had a chance to look at the male nudes. I had no interest in the female nudes. Yes I am male. Jumping to when I was twenty-five. I walked down the aisle of misery as that is what i was. Misery for forty nine years. My misery passed away in Feb. of 06. I was free, free at last, thank God I was free, free at last. Happy now that I;m out of the closet! Happy I'm gay! Glad I'm gay. It's wonderful to be gay. Thank you God for making me gay!!!! Bring on the marriage rights for our LBGT families!! Do it Governor!!!!

I expect public debate on this issue to once again highlight what a buffoon Alex Mooney is. Mark my words.

Marriage is between a man and a woman. Why do we have to redefine an institution that has been around for thousands of years JUST because it offends people. If gay people want to have a legal commitment, call it a union and be done with it. I resent any homosexual trying to force THEIR beliefs on something that is sacred!

Redefine marriage, Laura? You guys have been doing it for years. Last I know, if we reverted all the redefinitions that have been done in the last 300 years, marriage would be defined as "transferring the ownership of a white woman from her father and brothers to a white husband."

And, while we're on the topic of redefining marriage, can you make me a list of States that recently rewrote the definition of marriage as included within their Constitutions? Oh, that's right,, modifying the very basis of your State's laws to conform to your beliefs isn't "redefining", isn't it?

You say we're trying to force our beliefs on you. Think again. If same-sex marriage is legalized, then you can live under your beliefs, and we under ours. As the situation stands now, we are forced to live under YOUR beliefs, even if we don't share them. You might not see it that way, but that's the way it is.

Laura, Look That Metropolitan Community Church and United Church of Christ. They have no problem with gays marrying at their church.

G-Money,Since when do require fertility test for getting marriage license.Especially if there are married couple who can't have or don't want children.

Thank you Franck and Ryu

@Chris Davis, "God made man and woman as a couple for marriage". PLEASE tell me where that is in Genesis. Last time I read that chapter, God told them to be fruitful and multiply, but he did not tell them that they had to partake in a marriage rite that was specifically for one man and one woman. I won't even comment on the rest of your ignorant rant.

@g-money, you are correct in stating that this is not a religious issue. This is a civil issue. However, it is also not a fertility issue. If you are suggesting that marriage's purpose is for procreation, (a) how do you explain all of the procreation that happens without marriage, and (b) what of the heterosexual couples that either choose not to have children or are barren? Should they also be denied a marriage license? They after all are not joining any "sperm and egg" which is supposedly so important in a marriage, according to you.

@Laura, if you are such a fan of "traditional" marriage I guess you also support taking away a woman's right to vote, work, or claim ownership over anything, because "traditionally" women were property themselves.

The politicians always think their own benefits first than its consequence by their actions. They can't stand the pressure they gets. I'm so sad for that.

I wish that Don Dwyer would just come out of the closet already. It's obvious that a politician who is so obsessed about gay issues has some skeletons in his own closet. Seriously, the guy has an affinity for "pink wine". He doesn't call it rose, he calls it "pink wine"! If Dwyer isn't a closet case, then I don't know who is!

At the rate this country is going and using data from the census, marriage will be obsolete by 2034. Soon this will all be a non-issue. Rather than whining about gay marriage or civil ceremonies, maybe our country might ponder why so many people want nothing to do with the ritual.

I'm not gay myself, but I definitely support gay marriage or civil unions or whatever you'd like to call it. I just feel that everyone should be treated equal. Equality for ALL. Your sexual orientation shouldn't deny you any of the same rights that everyone else is allowed. People like Del. Don Dwyer need to go. It's people like him, with their ass-baskwards, outdated beliefs that is so wrong about this state and country. I definitely know what my goal is going to next time he's up for re-election. I'll be supporting/volunteering on his opponents campaign.

I have been with my wife now almost 13 years' and I look forward to this bill being pasted. We are allowed to buys homes, cars, debt ect..but we can't be on the same healthcare plan. What is wrong with this picture? We deserve the same rights as any other married couple. Wake up America we are in high demand and will not stop until justice is done.

Simply a concerned citizen,
Chanta'

In my limited observations of the world, there is no state in the union which denies a marriage license to any couple based upon their ability or desire to have children or not have children. On the other hand, there are plenty of children born to families without benefit of a marriage license. Therefore, I cannot see no connection between obtaining a marriage license and raising children except for the general opinion that a married couple is the "preffered" status. It is preffer over single which includes divorced folks, widowed folks and never married folks. This is the preferance of some - not all. There is plenty of anticdotal evidence, that a single parnet is preferable over a married couple when one parnet is abusive or a danger and a threat to the well being of the child or the spouse- mentally or physically. And sometimes one has no choice to raise a child in a single parnet home when a death occurs. It has been said that gay couples cannot procreate children - well they can and they do - by surgate mothers, or by artificial insimination. Or they even adopt. Gay couples who want children have children whether they have a marriage license or not. opt. So far, all children require a fertilized egg and a womb in order to be born and not necessarily a husband and wife. And the last time I look around there are over 350 million people in the United States and about 2 billion people on this earth. I don't think that refrianing from procreating of a few would threaten human survival on this planet.

At this point, the only way to marry in this country is to obtain a marriage license from your state, the select the person to certify that you have "declared your state of marriage" before some witnesses - sign and return the form to the government and you are thus registered with the government as married. Each state as it own requirements as who can obtain a license -of age, competant to make the decision (not under duress or insane), not married to another, and have not had your civil rights removed - that is incarcerated where premission must be obtained from the state. The state defines who may "certify" the marriage - judges, justice of the peace, clergy and ministers and rabbis, ship captians and in some states notary publics. So what does a marriage license give you? The right to marry! Once married you get certain property rights - ie both spouses have claim to the property acquired after marriage, government recognized rights of family relationships such as the care and financial responsiblity for children, right not to be required to testify against ones spouse (ask Mrs. Bernie Madoff about this one), rights to make medical and burial decision on behalf of one's spouse (when they cannot), the liability of the spouses support and debts, certian inheritance rights, and the ability to qualify as a "spouse" for insurance - health, property and life. And the right to file a joint tax return which has at this time an economic advantage. And there are many many more. Right now in this country - most laws put you into one of two status - married or single. Those who are married have many benefits that single folks do not have. So, to be married is a personal choice - to unite in marriage with the one you love - the one you choose should - no must be availible to all people.!

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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