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.  

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

July 27, 2010

Race for education $$$ follows political turbulence

Maryland is among 19 finalists in a U.S. Department of Education competition for hundreds of millions of dollars -- welcome news to the state officials who once disagreed about when even to enter the "Race to the Top."

The Sun's Liz Bowie reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan is likely to pick about a dozen states as winners by early September; Maryland stands to win $250 million.

"I can barely contain myself," said Nancy S. Grasmick, the state superintendent of schools. "We are so excited because there was tremendous work that went into this and it has such potential for our schools."

Gov. Martin O'Malley said in a statement that he is "honored" to be among the finalists. "To Maryland, this process has always been about more than simply a race for education dollars," he said.

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Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:25 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Families, General Assembly 2010

February 26, 2010

Same-sex politics

In perhaps the opening salvo of the “sex wars” that observers say Attorney General Doug Gansler's controversial gay-union opinion could instigate, budding politician Justin M. Towles decided to make a public stand in support of the state's AG.

Hours after Gansler issued an opinion that Maryland should honor same-sex marriages perfromed out-of-state, Towles' foe, conservative Republican Del. Don Dwyer called for Gansler to be impeached.

Towles, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, criticized the incumbent saying Dwyer’s call for impeachment both “unstatesman-like” and “radical.”

“This is yet another example of how Delegate Dwyer's extremist views divert attention and crucial resources from the real problems facing Marylanders, and continue to isolate the 31st District from mainstream policy discussions,” wrote Towles.

Dwyer, who opposes gay unions, says that Gansler should not have issued a fresh opinion because the Attorney General’s office in 2004 wrote an advisory letter that said out-of-state same sex-marriages should not be accepted here. With no change in Maryland law since that date, Dwyer says, there should not have been a new opinion.

** UPDATE: Del. Dwyer responded, saying he'd like to debate Towles and the other two Democrats in the race. See comments below.  

Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:32 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Families, General Assembly 2010

February 24, 2010

Same-sex marriage opinion quickly draws fire, praise

The attorney general's opinion has been out just a few hours, but it's already generated strong political reaction, with one delegate even calling for Doug Gansler's impeachment. Here are the basics of the opinion, from a Baltimore Sun story this morning:

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler on Wednesday morning released a long-awaited opinion saying same-sex marriages performed in other states could be recognized by Maryland's legal system.

Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., a Democrat, asked in May asked if such marriages could be recognized. "The answer to that question is clearly 'yes,'" Gansler wrote in a 40-page document.

The opinion does not enable same-sex couples to wed here. It also does not carry the weight of law, but is meant to guide judges and state agencies.

"What we say in this opinion is a prediction, not a prescription" as to how a court would interpret the law, Gansler wrote.

We understand that Del. Don H. Dwyer Jr., an Anne Arundel County Republican, is so dismayed that he's seeking Gansler's impeachment. Other lawmakers say it's now more important than ever for the legislature to decisively weigh in on the matter.

Under state law, a marriage is defined as between a man and a woman, but five states and Washington, D.C., permit them, prompting the debate about how Maryland should treat same-sex unions if a couple moves here.

Del. Emmett Burns called the opinion "political" and confusing. Burns put in a bill, which was defeated earlier this session, that would have essentially negated Gansler's opinion.

But a similar bill by another Baltimore County Democrat, Sen. Norman Stone, is still alive. Stone said this morning that the General Assembly must make clear its position on recognizing same-sex unions.

Stone said he's concerned that with Washington, D.C., set to begin permitting the unions next month, Maryland couples will simply marry there and then continue living here. Stone believes that if people "strongly believe in same-sex marriages, they should go live in those states" that allow it. A hearing on his bill is set for next week.

Meanwhile, supporters of same-sex marriages are again pursuing legislation that would allow those unions to be performed in this state. The bill has broad support, particularly among members of the House Judiciary Committee, which will consider it March 12. But legislative leaders doubt the effort will make it through both chambers.

Many, including Equality Maryland, praised Gansler's opinion. Freedom to Marry also has kind words for Gansler.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a Democrat, said he had not reviewed Gansler's opinion but reiterated his stance that same-sex couples should be permitted civil unions. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, said he personally believes that marriages should be between a man and a woman but said that as a lawyer, he understands the basis of Gansler's opinion.

"I believe the state must give full faith and credit to the laws of our sister states," Miller said.

Burns said he expetcs Maryland voters to one day decide for themselves whether the state should allow same-sex marriages.

"It is going to end up on referendum, and I am going to win," he said.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:29 AM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Families
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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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