Two of my favorite states, Maine and Maryland, could vote to allow gay marriage in a few weeks (Washington, also a great state, could do the same).
|If you live in Maryland, please vote for equality, vote for Question 6.|
I am a happily married straight girl with kids. But this issue is personal for me - as it is for so very many people - because I have many gay friends, gay family friends I consider family, and because I believe in marriage.
Marriage is good for kids. It helps provide stability - and the lawyer in me feels obligated to tell you that if things go wrong, civil marriage provides legal protections for everybody involved - particularly kids. And while I respect the right of religious institutions to determine the boundaries of marriage for their religions, I do not respect people trying to outlaw families based on their gender. As the synagogue near me so eloquently puts it: "Civil Marriage Is a Civil Right."
I'm happy to talk more about it, on the issue itself. But today what I want to focus on is the evolution of gay marriage as an issue, and particularly how I see this election, this proposition, is being handled in Maryland.
If you've heard about the gay marriage referendum in Maryland, it's probably because of the kerfuffle over Baltimore Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo speaking out in favor of gay marriage, and a conservative African-American Maryland state delegate, Emmett Burns, Jr. writing a letter to the Ravens' owner suggesting that he muzzle Ayanbadejo on the issue. Ayanbadejo is a thoughtful, respectful guy, and Burns really hurt his cause, to say nothing of seeming to forget about the First Amendment briefly. Then NFL Player Chris Kluwe spoke up to defend Ayanbadejo, in both explicit and clean open letters to Delegate Burns. And while the whole thing was engaging, that's not the real story about what's going on in Maryland.
1. Maryland's Political Establishment Is On Board.
|Governor O'Malley Celebrating the Signing of our Gay Marriage Law|
We have had a gradual, building, movement towards a law allowing gay marriage in Maryland.
- The Courts: Our highest court has ruled (unanimously) that Maryland must recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere (which negates the clearly-unconstitutional federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA).
- The Legislature: After several failed efforts to pass a bill, Maryland's House of Delegates approved the bill by a 72–67 vote on February 17, 2012 (with the help and guidance of House Speaker Michael Busch), and the Senate approved the bill by a 25-22 vote on February 23.
- The Governor: Governor O'Malley - our popular governor - supports gay marriage, actively. Minnesota and Washington share this distinction, but there are few governors who have openly supported gay marriage. Maine's very conservative governor decidedly does not. Governor O'Malley signed the bill that the proposition upholds into law on March 1, 2012. He actively campaigned for it to pass the legislature. The law will not take effect until January 1, 2013, so that it can be affirmed or rejected by voter referendum. O'Malley publicly celebrated passage and explained his thoughts for all to read. He's been raising money for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group looking to uphold the law (by passing Question 6).
- Our Federal Leaders: Both U.S. Senators from Maryland supported the addition of a gay marriage plank to the Democratic Platform in 2012 (though only half of our congressional delegation - Reps. Edwards, Hoyer, Sarbanes, and Van Hollen - openly support gay marriage - come on, Cummings and Ruppersberger, get on board).
- Local Leaders: Baltimore's Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has come out in support of gay marriage, and has actively campaigned for Question 6.
|Maryland religious leaders (and Al Sharpton) who support gay marriage|
- Marylanders for Marriage Equality has "partner" congregations and organizations that include:
- Catholics -
- Catholics for Marriage Equality
- Emmaus Faith Community of The Old Catholic Church
- MD Catholics for Equality
- Episcopalians -
- Episcopal Diocese of Maryland
- St. George’s Episcopal Church
- Jewish groups -
- Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation
- American Jewish Congress- Maryland Chapter
- Baltimore Hebrew Congregation
- Bolton Street Synagogue
- Chevrei Tzedek Congregation
- Columbia Jewish Congregation
- Howard County Board of Rabbis
- Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington
- Jews United for Justice
- Temple Emanuel
- Temple Micah
- Temple Oheb Shalom’s
- Union for Reform Judaism
- Lutherans -
- St. Marks Lutheran Church
- Mormons -
- Mormons for Marriage Equality
- Presbyterians -
- Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church
- Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church
- Govans Presbyterian Church
- The First and Franklin St. Presbyterian Church
- Quakers -
- Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run
- Homewood Friends Meeting (Quaker)
- Little Falls Meeting of Friends
- Unitarians -
- Cedar Lane Unitarian Church
- First Unitarian Church of Baltimore
- Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church
- River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation Social Justice Council
- Towson Unitarian Universalist Church
- Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia
- Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick
- Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville
- Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring
- Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Harford County
- Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland
- United Church of Christ -
- Evangelical Reformed United Church of Christ
- Grace United Church of Christ
- United Church of Christ- Central Atlantic Conference
- United Church of Christ- Seneca Valley
- Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ
- Veritas United Church of Christ
- And a Lot of Others:
- Christ Congregational Church
- Columbia United Christian Church
- Luther Place Memorial Church
- MD Faith for Equality
- Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC)
- New Light Metropolitan Community Church
- Rockville United Church
- St. Sebastian Independent Catholic Community
- Unity Fellowship of Baltimore
- Religious lobbying has been a big part of the strategy on how to pass gay marriage in Maryland. It has also been a part of the strategy of NOM (the anti-gay marriage group that has found such success in thwarting gay marriage in referendum after referendum all over the country). More on that in a minute. First, let me say that religious people all over Maryland have really spent time making calls, speaking, and advocating for gay marriage here.
3. The African-American community in Maryland has come much further over the last year toward supporting gay marriage. Maryland has a large African-American population, and support for gay marriage (though not other gay rights) has traditionally lagged in the black community - particularly within conservative religious groups. But in Maryland, attracting African-American support for gay marriage has been a focus, and it has yielded both impressive strides in national civil rights groups advocating gay rights, and in movement in the polls, too.
- The NAACP, a Baltimore institution, endorsed gay marriage. Here's NAACP President Ben Jealous speaking on the issue:
- Julian Bond, Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP, has been a long-time supporter of gay marriage, and the group is now airing ads with Bond speaking about the issue on Maryland radio.
- There definitely seems to be a division in Maryland's black religious community on gay marriage. But there is also a lot of interesting conversation going on about the role of marriage and sex in our discourse, and I really liked this one piece a friend shared about the way that many religious people seem to focus on issues of morality and being gay and ignore issues of morality and being straight.
|Mary and Dick Cheney (Mary Cheney is gay)|
The Republican Party has pretty much been against gay marriage - as a party. Most of its leaders have been vocal in their opposition to gay marriage and even civil unions. Hopefully, as younger folks move up in the Party, that will change. Here in Maryland, we have a tradition of socially-liberal Republicans (the late Senator Charles "Mac" Mathias being a prominent one). And part-time Marylander Dick Cheney and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman (who came out in 2010) lobbied in support of the same-sex marriage bill in Maryland.
5. Personal Politics.
One of the things I have appreciated so much about the campaign for marriage equality here has been how personal it has been. I don't want to appropriate pictures, but if you go to the Marylanders for Marriage Equality Facebook page, you'll see hundreds of pictures of Marylanders, who've written on a white board why they support marriage equality. There are also many videos of Marylanders talking about their own beliefs and stories.
This personal approach, I believe, has made a difference. It helps that the President took a prominent lead, too. And while NOM is planning to put 2 million dollars into Maryland, to try to drive people to vote on fear, I am encouraged by the recent polling numbers:
Marylanders for Marriage Equality today released a new poll showing voters approve of marriage for loving, committed gay and lesbian couples by a 14-point margin (54% to 40%). The poll was conducted by Hart Research last week.
“We continue to have the momentum,” said Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality. ”Voters are having conversations on marriage around the dinner table and are agreeing that people should be treated fairly.”
African-American voters, the survey noted, are virtually evenly split between supporters (44%) and opponents (45%) - a shift from just few months ago when opponents were up by nine points. The change is largely due to increased discussion of marriage equality following the endorsement of the issue by President Obama and the NAACP.
Just one more video, because I think Al Sharpton underscores perhaps the most important point - if two gay people want to marry, much as when two straight people want to marry - it's really none of our business.
Come on Maryland, make me proud. Make us a leader in freedom. Show the people who are standing in the way of marriage equality that their winning streak ends here. Move forward. Show the country how it's done when we support each other's families, each other's equality. Vote for 6.