New group promises vocal support for gay marriage
Marylanders for Marriage Equality pulls together a collection of unions, churches and progressive groups. The goal: Show wavering delegates that there's support for the controversial measure and pick up the handful of new votes needed to pass it in the state's general assembly.
The group didn't include any surprises -- it's made up of the same organizations that have backed the issue in the past -- but gay advocates said the various groups will play more active roles this time generating support in their communities.
"We didn't ask for it [support] as much as we should have," said Del. Maggie McIntosh, a powerful Baltimore Democrat who is openly gay but until recently kept a low profile on the bill.
The group was launched during a sweltering news conference in front of Baltimore's City Hall and included remarks from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake who said she was "grateful" that Baltimore is "ground zero" for the new coalition.
Missing was one of Rawlings-Blake's predecessors and a person who many believe has the clout to tip the balance: Gov. Martin O'Malley. Members of the coalition have repeatedly asked O'Malley to introduce same-sex marriage as part of his legislative package this year. He has not yet said whether he will do it.
Last month, after New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a same-sex bill, O'Malley told The Sun that he would have included the measure in his 2011 legislative package if he thought his name would have helped. And next year? "We'll certainly be looking very seriously at that as we put together our legislative agenda," O'Malley said.
The new group includes the Service Employees Union International, the Communication Workers of America, the Human Rights Campaign, Catholics for Equality, the Maryland Black Family Alliance and Pride in Faith, the ACLU and Equality Maryland.
McIntosh said they have targeted about half a dozen delegates across the state, including at least one GOP member they think could be persuaded to vote for the measure. But the organization is still coming into focus. There's no single person in charge and there's no staff.
Nevertheless opponents of gay marriage are paying attention. An hour after the news conference ended, the Maryland Catholic Conference issued a statement reminding lawmakers that they too have a group, and one with a proven track record.
"The coalition that upheld the time honored tradition of marriage in Maryland remains intact and will continue to be involved," according to a statement from the MCC.