Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Marriage Equality For Maryland

Maryland's General Assembly begins its session today. It will be over on April 11, 2011. Marriage is on the agenda. Legislative leaders and the Governor are on board. Maryland could provide a pivotal early win in 2011.

Via press release from Equality Maryland:
“Equality Maryland is proud to work with true champions to end the exclusion of loving and committed gay couples from marriage,” said Ms. Meneses-Sheets [Executive Director of Equality Maryland.]

The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act will enable gay and lesbian couples to go to the county clerk’s office or the courthouse and get a marriage license. No religious institutions or clergy members would be compelled to marry same-sex couples. It is being introduced by Majority Leader Kumar Barve (D-17) and Delegate Keiffer Mitchell (D-44). The Senate version will be advanced by Majority Leader Rob Garagiola (D-15) and Senator Rich Madaleno (D-18).

Advocates say that the bill is not only about fairness, but also offers some relief in these tough economic times. A 2007 Williams Institute report entitled “The Impact on Maryland’s Budget of Allowing Same-Sex Couples to Marry” found that ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage in Maryland would “have a positive impact on the state budget of approximately $3.2 million annually.” To read the full report, please click here.

Senate Minority Leader Alan Kittleman recently announced plans to push for a civil unions bill. Local advocates have commended his willingness to work to achieve legal equality for gay and lesbian couples, but believe that his proposal will not achieve that goal.

“Civil union doesn’t work. In other states with civil union, people have been barred from a dying partner’s bedside and denied the ability to say goodbye to the person they love. That just doesn’t happen when you’re married because everyone knows what marriage means,” said Ms. Meneses-Sheets.
What happens in Maryland gets a lot of attention in DC. The Washington Post gives prominent coverage to Maryland legislation. It's local news that often makes the front page. And, many people (especially elected officials), still read the paper. So, what happens in Maryland will impact the national debate on marriage.

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