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February 2, 2011

Kittleman will support gay marriage bill

Former Senate Minority Leader Allan Kittleman took a stand against his caucus Wednesday morning, saying he will vote for a gay marriage bill and testify for it in committee.

"It was a difficult decision," Kittleman said to reporters after session. "I'll get some heat." He said he made the decision to support the bill even though it could "affect his election" in four years. 

"As a strong proponent of personal and economic liberty/freedom, I simply could not, in good conscience, vote against SB 116," Kittleman wrote in a explanation of his decision. (See full explanation after the jump.)

He noted that he belongs to a conservative church whose members for the most part do not support gay marriage. "While my spiritual life is extremely important to me, it cannot be the sole basis for my decisions as a state senator," he wrote.

The senator will not introduce his civil unions legislation that he had talked about in January. He made the call because the idea was not generating support in the legislature. He said that he still favors civil unions, but does not want to waste the chamber's time with a bill that is a non-starter.

Advocates on both sides of the issue dislike civil unions, though, as Kittleman notes in his statement, a recent poll indicated that more Marylanders prefer civil unions than gay marriage.

Liberal senators immediately embraced Kittleman's decision. "The party of Lincoln lives," declared Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat.

Kittleman ignited a firestorm in January when he initially announced that he'd introduce the civil unions bill. That led to a heated caucus meeting where the senate's 11 other GOP members expressed displeasure with his stance. A week later Kittleman relinquished the leadership position that he's held for two years. 

Since January Kittleman has been coy about his position on the gay marriage bill. Yesterday the Republican caucus took a formal position against gay marriage, but Kittleman dissented. At least eight Republicans supported the caucus position, but the final vote was not reported.


STATEMENT BY SENATOR ALLAN H. KITTLEMAN ON SENATE BILL 116

I want to express my thoughts on SB 116, Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act.  As most of you know, I have long supported equal rights for same sex couples.  A few years ago, I voted in favor of allowing same sex couples the right to make medical decisions for each other.

This year, I decided to work on legislation that allowed civil unions for all couples – opposite sex and same sex couples.  My goal was three-fold:

1.     I wanted to ensure that same sex couples had the same rights and responsibilities as married couples in Maryland;

2.    I wanted to remove the government’s intervention in what most Marylanders consider a religious institution (marriage); and

3.    I wanted to develop a consensus on an issue that has been very divisive for many years.

In early January, I announced my proposal for civil unions for all couples.  Somewhat surprisingly, I received much more criticism from people who wanted same sex marriage than those who oppose such marriages.  I actually received quite a lot of messages and emails from Republicans supporting my decision. 

A recent poll performed by Gonzales Research confirmed strong support for civil unions.  The poll found that 62% of Maryland voters support civil unions.  Of that amount, 73% of Democrats, 60% of Independents and 41.5% of Republicans support civil unions.  This figure was higher than the support for same-sex marriage in Maryland.  According to the poll, 51% of Maryland voters support same-sex marriage.  Of that amount, 65% of Democrats, 52.4% of Independents and 24% of Republicans support same-sex marriage.
 
Unfortunately, despite the support by a strong majority of Maryland voters, I did not receive any support from my Republican and Democrat senate colleagues.  In fact, the Republican senate caucus yesterday voted to take a “caucus position” against same-sex marriage.  My Republican colleagues have also made it very clear to me that they would not be supportive of my civil union legislation.  I also did not receive any support from Republicans or Democrats in the House of Delegates.

Based upon the lack of support I have received for my civil union bill, it was evident that my legislation would not receive a favorable report from the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.  With the deadline for submitting legislation approaching quickly and with the Committee hearing scheduled to be held on Tuesday, February 8th, I made the decision to forego my efforts to have civil unions for all couples in Maryland.

As I noted above, my primary goal has always been to ensure that same sex couples have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples currently have in Maryland.   I see this issue as a civil rights issue.  I was raised by a gentleman who joined with others in fighting racial discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s.  Watching him fight for civil rights instilled in me the belief that everyone, regardless of race, sex, national origin or sexual orientation, is entitled to equal rights. 

Consequently, with the civil union legislation no longer being a viable option, I was put in the position of deciding whether to support same-sex marriage or voting to continue the prohibition against same-sex marriage.  As a strong proponent of personal and economic liberty/freedom, I simply could not, in good conscience, vote against SB 116.

I know that some may contend that since the Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, Maryland should continue to prohibit same sex marriage.  First, let me state that I am a strong follower of Jesus Christ.  I worked in youth ministries for many years.  However, while my faith may teach that marriage is between a man and a woman, our government is not a theocracy.  As the state senator from District 9, I represent everyone in my district, regardless of their faith.  Therefore, while my spiritual life is extremely important to me, it cannot be the sole basis for my decisions as a state senator.

I know that some will be upset with my decision to support SB 116 and I respect the fact that people have differing opinions on this issue.  I carefully considered my decision.  I sought counsel from many people, including my family, clergy, advocates for both sides, fellow legislators and many others.  These discussions were very helpful to me and I appreciate the time that those individuals took to talk with me.  Ultimately, it was my strong feelings about civil rights that led me to decide to support SB 116.

                         

Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:13 AM | | Comments (38)
Categories: 2011 legislative session
        

Comments

It is refreshing to hear from an elected official who does his job based on the wishes of his constituents instead of his religious beliefs. Thank you Senator Kittkeman.

I wish there were more men like Senator Kittleman with the personal conviction to do what they know is right, even though the consequences may be dire for them personally.

Kittleman will be remembered as a champion of civil rights, and will stand alongside his father as a role model for us all. You have my vote, and my full support!

It is truly sad that any representative actually has to defend him or her self for doing the right thing. Republicans have sold their souls to the religious rightwing wackos and it diminishes the party, our state, and our country. Thank you Senator Kittleman for showing there are still people of integrity that are Republicans. I just wish there were more of you.

This is very good news. Full marriage equality is the civil rights issue of our time. I will be thrilled if Maryland is one of the pioneers of supporting this legislation.

I will have to echo Gragost. I applaud you Senator Kittleman for voting for the people, not just yourself or your church.

I wrote a letter to my senator (Jacobs) asking her to put aside her religious beliefs in favor of equal rights for all Marylanders and she clearly does not care what I think.

How refreshing to hear that the party of less government intrusion has at least one faithful adherent. It's amazing how quickly Republicans scream "LESS GOVERNMENT" but want to fight tooth and nail to insert more and more government into "moral" matters. A true Republican, a true Libertarian, would never ever seek to insert more government into our lives.

I have lived here in District 9 about 10 years and know a little bit about the late Senator Kittleman's history. The "apple didn't fall too far from the tree"..I think Senator Kittleman's dad would be very, very proud of him. This Democrat is.

Thank you Senator -- I'm a democrat in your district, and you have my support.

"As a strong proponent of personal and economic liberty/freedom, I simply could not, in good conscience, vote against SB 116," Kittleman wrote in a explanation of his decision.

Really? If you truly strongly support personal liberty/freedom, you would go against any kind of state sanctioning of marriage regardless of sex. The government does not belong in the business of sanctioning marriage to begin with.

As a constituent of Sen. Kittleman, and a registered Democrat, I must say that I admire the Senator for having the courage to stand up for what is right and just. I only wish that more elected officials (of both parties) would do the same.

Sounds like someone needs to switch parties. He's a loser doesn't deserve the Republican label.

Kurt-

Kittleman tried to do that this session but could not gain any traction. He was quoted saying he wanted to take government out of the marriage business.

The Party of Lincoln lives indeed. Thanks to Senator Kittleman for living up to the best in the GOP.

@Steve A, sounds like you don't know that Republicans want government out of people's lives. This man deserves the Republican title more than most.

Amen Brent.

We need more like him - a brave and thoughtful man.

Well is so many people want it then let it come up for vote like other states. Polls can not be trusted and anyone who spouts them only uses the ones that lean towards what they want. Put it on the ballot. This should not be up to a liberal base of politicans. It should be up to the people.

No mom,mom or pop,pop adoptions please.All gays had a mom and pop.

dsmith-

Should we have put segregation laws up for the popular vote in the 1950's as well?

CIVIL UNIONS can provide the same equality without spitting in the face of religious and moral beliefs of MARRIED Men and Women! Most of State is opposed to Gay Marriage..put it on a Statewide REFERENDUM and let the voters decide, NOT a bunch of LIBERAL legislators!

Senator, your stock just went way up for this Democrat. I might actually have to vote Republican for the 1st time in a long time.

You can be religious with good morals *and* support full marriage equality!

There is no monopoly on who can speak for God!

It is offensive that you wish to have your own narrow interpretation of a religious text dictate what our public policy will be!

Conviction isn't seeking attention for doing what you feel is right.

Paul Thompson, Civil unions are just another version of "separate but equal" facilities, which were determined way back in the 1950's to be inherently unequal. Marriage is a legal contract. Nobody is saying that gay couples should be allowed to marry in your church, mosque, temple, or wherever you worship, but who are you to decide that other tax-paying citizens like yourself shouldn't have the same rights as you? Civil rights should NEVER be put up for a referendum. If they were, there would still be Jim Crow laws in the South.

My partner & I have been together for 15 years. We were married in October 2008 in CA in that short period of time before Proposition 8 was passed. Now our marriage has been deemed legal in CA, but other same sex couples are no longer allowed to be married. This is a matter of discrimination, plain & simple. Whether it's called a gay marriage or a civil union, it's just hair splitting. Thank you, Mr. Kittleman, for doing your job & standing up for the rights of everyone.

Senator Kittleman faces the same challenge which many Republicans face. Yes, we'd like government out of the marriage business, but when proposals for civil unions get voted down we are left with no choice but to support gay marriage proposals from the left, because they at least apply equal rights, even if they do it the wrong way from our perspective.

I applaud the Senator for making the difficult choice here.

Dave Nalle
National Chairman
Republican Liberty Caucus
www.rlc.org

Principle trumps party. Amazing. I'm excited to see that we have a socially conscientious Republican in Senator Kittleman. He'll have my vote--if he survives the inevitable purging the radical right will mount.

I’ve never been a one issue voter. I’ll take his vote for marriage equality but I will not ignore his record of failure to protect workers, children, and the victims of family violence.

Progressive Maryland gives him a score of 27 on a scale of 1-100. I guess that’s better than Nancy Jacobs at 25 points, but not much. His track record against workers is dismal. He has voted against key labor protections including:

04/07/2010 Establishing a Public School Labor Relations Board


03/30/2010 Requiring Shift Breaks for Certain Employees


04/06/2009 Extending Unemployment Benefits to Part-Time Employees


04/03/2007 State Living Wage


04/06/2006 Uninsured Employers' Fund -- Liability of Corporate Officers


01/17/2006 Minimum Wage Increase in 2006


01/12/2006 Health Care for Large Companies


He has voted against protecting abused women and children


04/02/2009 Allowing Judges to Confiscate Firearms from Domestic Abuse Suspects


02/22/2008 Expanding the list of professionals who must report suspected child abuse or neglect.


The sad part is that because most Marylanders don't support gay marriage, at least at this time, but most do support civil unions, the political reality is that both sides have shot themselves in the foot once again and this bill most likely will not pass.

Why do I say that?

Because politicians follow poll numbers and the will of their constituents, usually not what is right or just.

Here's what's going to happen... The Ministerial Alliance in Baltimore and other such groups in PG County will immediately influence black members of the legislature to vote against this. Add them to the Republicans plus the few conservative Democrats, stir in racist Senate President Mike Miller and what recipe is that?

A bill that once again will NOT PASS! I don't even hear Gov. O'Malley grandstanding for this like I normally do on other issues.

Even gay people I know are like, "Just give me civil unions and work on gay marriage next!"

I applaud Kittleman, but the dirty little secret of this bill vs. his bill is that it's clear this bill is designed to self-destruct while Kittleman's civil union bill would have had the overwhelming support of the general public and all the various caucuses. Not even Senate President Mike Miller could block a civil union bill without public outrage.

As an atheist homosexual, why should YOUR viewpoints and beliefs have any effect upon MY life?

I'm not asking for the right to be married in your place of worship. I am asking for the same rights heterosexuals have in this state and country.

It's actually really simple:
EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL! Do you not believe in equal right?

If a heterosexual couple can get a civil marriage I should be able to get one too. And it needs to come with the same rights and privileges that come with being in a civil marriage between heterosexuals. Anything less is discrimination and unequal. And here I thought I lived in the land of the free. What bull.

Next thing you know they will allow blacks to marry whites. How terrible. We were told in the 50's and 60's that God did not intend for interracial marriages. Now we are told the same things about gay/lesbian marriages. Let others not like you alone. They deserve everything you are entitled to.

What part of "Abomination" do you not understand?

'What part of "Abomination" do you not understand?'

There are two parts that I don't understand. Perhaps you'll be kind enough to explain them to me.

The first is the applicability to my rights under secular law. This is America, not Iran.

The second is the way believers write off any teaching of their holy book that inconveniences them as "nailed to the Cross," "meant for the church back then," or needing to be "interpreted correctly," while those teachings that they want to apply to someone else are crystal-clear expressions of God's eternal will. Is there a theist decoder ring that tells you which is which?

Forgive my ignorance, what rights do hetro couples enjoy that same sex couples cannot enjoy besides the right to marry and divorce?

Forgive my ignorance, but what rights at all do heterosexuals have that homosexuals don't?

No one is stopping homosexuals from marrying either.

Seems to me the law is applied equally.

I've yet to read an answer how it isn't.

The government does not have a title to the term “marriage” so I do not know why it feels in can convey the term to same sex couples. Civil Unions can be used to convey all of the rights and benefits of the married community to the same sex community this should be the limit of government’s role. Marriage really owes its traditions to the churches and only entered into the legal/governmental world after these traditions were long established.
The government absolutely should convey appropriate rights and protections to the same sex community via Civil Unions. The traditions and rites of marriage ought to be reserved for the various religious organizations that have really been the caretakers for the institution of marriage.
Life is about choices, the same sex couple community has made choices they need to sort out the cost of those choices with the various churches that maintain the history, values and traditions of marriage. The government can ensure that the “price” of these choices does not include violence, hatred and discrimination

Wrong Doug. The government indeed does not have a title to the term “marriage.” That’s why Equality Maryland is spending beaucoup bucks and countless man hours to get the law changed. If there was no state interest in the definition of marriage then this could be solved in the courtroom.

Is it really about marriage though, or is it about something symbolic?

It seems to me that if the LGBT lobby were truly interested in marriage (as opposed to a symbol of political success) they would have shown an interest last year in the three bills that would have changed divorce law and other changes in family law. They didn’t. Wouldn’t their hand wringing mantra of “loving and committed couples” wring a little more tears from the crowd if they stood up for other issues that concern marriage and family?

Yet here they fall all over Mr. Kittleman who voted AGAINST a bill that would require Medical Examiners and Parole and Probation Officers to report suspected child abuse.

Everyone is already equal when it comes to marriage.

You already have the same right as I do to marry a man (if you are a woman) or marry a woman (if you are a man).

Right now we are equal.

Civil unions serve the same function as marriage. In my personal opinion, the government needs to stop marrying people all together.

Civil unions for all. Marriage should be a ceremony set apart for faith communities alone.

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About the bloggers
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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