Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Maryland Is for Lovers

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 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.   

  • 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
2. Maryland is has a lot of religious people who support gay marriage.  Maryland has a long tradition of religious activism and religious tolerance.  Our state was founded by Catholics, and we had the first religious toleration policy in the Colonies.  There are many people of faith in Maryland.  And lots of them support gay marriage.  This is progress - there are a lot of congregations and religious groups who have come out vocally in favor of Question 6.

  • 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

    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.

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      Mary and Dick Cheney (Mary Cheney is gay)
      4. Maryland is the kind of state where Republicans support gay marriage.

      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:
      New Poll: 54% of Maryland Voters Would Protect Marriage Law 
      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.


      1. Emily, you may not know this, but the old Catholic Church and any group or church using the phrase "Independent Catholic" are not actually Catholic, as in part of the Roman Catholic Church or in communion with the RCC.

        As the law stands, there is no good legal reason for denying civil marriage to gay couples. But I think the term "marriage" with regard to the state has become so watered-down that it is all but meaningless. I am beginning to think that maybe the state should get out of the marriage business entirely, and set up either a civil union-type dealio or a bundle of forms to account for certain rights, privileges, and obligations.

      2. Whoops, I didn't know that :-) I'll change it.

        How has marriage become watered down by the state? I think if anything it's been watered down by people treating it like a casual relationship or a monetary one, rather than as a lifelong partnership and the basis of a family.

      3. I didn't even know they existed until fairly recently. And part of me gets all huffy at the fact that they use the term "Catholic." :>

        Well I definitely agree with your second sentence. But the state, too, has watered it down, what with Reno and Vegas playing up their quickie marriages where you don't need any kind of a waiting period, and apparently you don't need to be entirely sober either. And the proliferation of no-fault divorces, and the ability for one person to unilaterally declare the marriage over (although I am torn on this issue, because I recognize that there are times when a no-fault divorce is the quickest and easiest way out for a victim of abuse, for example), and even some jurisdictions speeding up the process to make divorce even easier.

        Basically, the fact that the state marries people even if they see it as a "casual relationship" and not a "lifelong partnership" is a sign of this watering-down. But of course, there is no way for the state to make sure people are marrying for the right reasons, and I certainly would probably not like them trying to, so maybe what I mean is that because people have watered down marriage, the state has in effect also done so, because it gives people what they want.

        Which gets back to my point about doing away with civil marriage: if any two (or more, if you think polygamy should be legal) people can get married for any reason or no reason at all, for any length of time, regardless of how they feel about each other and regardless of whether they intend to have children, what's the point of involving the government? What benefit does the state get by keeping track of such a huge, disparate collection of relationships?

      4. My concern is similar to yours, in that I worry that if we make it too hard to get out of marriages, we make it harder for victims of abuse or fraud to leave.

        I think - and I know this may be controversial - that we might want to make it harder to get into a marriage. There's an extent to which if everybody had to have a few conversations before marrying about what they want and expect and plan in the long run, marriages might work better and last longer. So if there were some sort of prenuptial agreement that covered some of that (those of us who got married by a religious group that requires pre-marital counseling are at least familiar with this concept), it would probably be useful. But that would set up a hurdle, and I know lots of people just want more people to be married. I want more good marriages. The stats that say that people who live together are less likely to get married are good stats to me - because they mean that people are rightfully using living together as a try-out, to see if they want to commit a lifetime to somebody. Rather than looking at marriage as a way to trap a man into a family life (as I think our society largely does), I think it should be about how we build a family and a future. We have birth control, so why not make birth control readily and cheaply available, and encourage people to be smart about how and when to start a family. I'd also like to see us build parenting classes into our curricula. Because it's one of the most important things we do, and there is plenty of scholarship, but not systematic training for parents.

      5. I like your idea about making marriage harder to get into -- often when conservatives rail against divorce rates, I want to point out that part of the problem is people who should never have gotten married in the first place. And celebrating romantic/sexual chemistry over love and commitment, and weddings over marriage, as so much of our culture does, doesn't help.

        I disagree with your interpretations of the stats about living together first, because I think there are too many correlating factors to make it useful. (What would be more useful is to compare the length of marriages of people who did and did not live together first, but again it would be imperfect because of the correlation between thinking living together is wrong and thinking divorce is wrong, etc.)

        The bit about "trapping" a man in marriage is spot on, and goes to pervasive gender stereotypes about men only wanting sex and women only wanting commitment. Not only are these stereotypes factually wrong, it sends a poor message about what marriage is supposed to be, and what are acceptable behaviors and attitudes for men and women to have.

        But now we are back to talking about heterosexual marriage. To bring it back on topic, a few years after Vermont and Massachusetts started marrying gay couples, the NYT ran an article about all the resultant divorces. I got absurdly mad at these gay couples for not staying together. The problem isn't gay marriage per se, it is in not taking marriage seriously enough.

      6. There is probably some inherent pressure in representing a group of people fighting for the right to marry - I wonder about the divorce rates of interracial couples in the wake of Loving v. Virginia. That said, yes, I am really hoping that for awhile at least the gay marriage divorce rate won't be too high.

        Yes, the trapping men thing is more straight-focused, for sure. Though I'm sure there is some correlational group in the gay community - some people who are more reluctant to marry, stereotypically. I just don't know the politics there as well :-)

        And I agree with you that the focus on wedding over marriage is probably not all that useful. It's a lot like what I was talking about on political coverage being shallow - if we make choices based on shallow criteria, we cannot expect a good return on our investment.