The facts about Same-Sex Marriage in Maryland

Protestors in Annapolis. Photo courtesy of WBAL.

Things are heating up in Annapolis now. Legislation on redefining marriage within the state of Maryland is making its way through the General Assembly from both sides. The Senate peacefully passed its version of the bill (SB 116) with amendments by a narrow 25-22 vote on Thursday, February 24. This was 1 more than the 24 votes it needed to pass the bill. Now the bill is making its way through the House. There was a hearing on the bill in the House Judiciary committee last Friday, which had a not-surprisingly heavy turn-out. Delegates debated various amendments on March 9 on the floor. Next step? The Big Vote.

In its original form, this legislation would redefine the definition of marriage as it is stated in the state’s constitution under Maryland Family Law, Section 2-201, which says that “only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in the state.” Amendments were debated during the second reading of the bill, which took place on Wednesday on the House floor. These included provisions that would protect teachers and families from being forced to participate in education within public school systems on the basis of religious beliefs. There was one amendment that proposed changing the name of the bill from “The Civil Marriage Protection Act” to “Same Sex Marriage” Finally, there was an amendment that would have made the passage of the bill contingent on the passage of another bill still in committee (HB 963). However, none of the proposed amendments were successful.

Although this bill has been pushed rather quickly through both chambers, the bill’s progress was put on a hold in the House Judiciary Committee as two Democratic delegates, who co-sponsored the bill and were believed to be strong supporters, refused to vote in Tuesday’s committee meeting. This brought progress to a screeching halt, particularly shocking those who were hoping to see it passed as quickly and easily in the House as it had in the Senate. Delegates Carter (D-Baltimore) and Alston (D-Prince George’s) did not show up to the voting session, meaning they could not commence voting on the legislation. Delegate Carter, who says she still supports same-sex marriage, is hoping that by doing this, she will bring attention to two of her bills which she says are of equal if not more importance. Delegate Alston admits to having second thoughts despite co-sponsoring the bill, explaining that she needed more time to pray about how she will ultimately vote. Even Delegate Stukes has withdrawn his support, saying that he had been under the impression that the legislation would allow civil unions, not marriage.

The debate is heated on this legislation.

When it comes to arguments for the bill, proponents took a bleeding-heart approach in their testimonies, advocating that it was time to extend “rights” to all Marylanders and the need to stand up for and recognize love. As the primary sponsor of HB 55, Delegate Luiz Simmons argued during the hearing that there is no evidence that marriage for same-sex couples would diminish the institution of marriage or of procreation. In response to arguments that God does not approve of same-sex relationships, he inanely stated “God has not signed the witness list.” Other panelists, who included openly gay Delegates Heather Mizeur and Anne Kaiser, along with other supportive legislators and citizens, made the argument that simply creating civil unions in the state would ultimately create a second-class citizen status for homosexuals. Senator Raskin, in a written statement, said that it is a “fundamental wrong” not to provide the fundamental right of marriage to all Marylanders.

On the other hand, opponents of HB 55 and SB 116 took a traditional stand, arguing for the same sentiments that guided the founders. Delegate Don Dwyer, the most publicly staunch opponent of the bill among Republican legislators in the House, bravely and poignantly opened his testimony in prayer. The arguments against the bill ultimately say that this is not a civil rights issue; marriage is a religious institution recognized by the state, and it is not up to the legislators to attempt to re-define it. They also argue that allowing same-sex marriage would alter and harm our society because marriage is for the purpose of creating new life, and children need both a mother and a father. Multiple former homosexuals even protested that the gay lifestyle is unhealthy and dangerous based on their personal experiences. They claimed that homosexuals are simply rebelling against moral foundations while forcing legislators and Americans in general to embrace their lifestyle lest they be deemed bigots or old-fashioned.

This is not an easy issue and cannot be taken lightly. So many peoples’ lives are involved and affected directly by the results of this legislation. Not only will it affect the institution of marriage within this state, but it will also make a serious impact on the economy, the social structure, and the education system to which we are accustomed. The Delegates in Annapolis are likely to vote on this issue by the end of this week. Many predict that it will pass the House and that it is highly likely that it will end up in referendum for the people to decide. Whatever happens, this issue is without a doubt the most crucial and dominant piece of legislation to be introduced in the 2011 session.

Baltimore County Night in Annapolis

Every year our legislators invite county Republicans down to the state capital for a chance to meet and chat with the who’s who of conservative Annapolis politics. 

This year’s reception will occur this coming Monday night from 6-8 pm in Rm 170 of the State House of Representatives building. 

This is a great opportunity to see how your government works.  You can tour the State House, see where sessions take place, meet with delegates and senators, and enjoy some very yummy food.  It’s well worth the trip.

For those of you wishing to carpool, contact Augie.  He has space for five and will be leaving the Catonsville area around 5:00 pm.

If you’re looking to drive on your own, you can either park at the Navy Stadium and take the shuttle over to the House building or you can park in a garage and walk over.  We hear Gotts Court garage is by far the cheapest.

We hope to see you there.  Seriously, don’t miss this great opportunity.

For Baltimore County Republican Central Committee members, a meeting will follow the reception. 

Here’s to New Beginnings

The House of Delegates building in Annapolis

Well, the beginning of the semester draws near again and I am gearing up to immerse myself into the stressful yet fulfilling routine of studying, cramming, and binge snacking once again. It sounds like the beginning of any old second-semester for the average sophomore in college, right? Well, this semester is different because this time I will be working two days out of the week at the Maryland General Assembly for the most Honorable Delegate Susan McComas, District 35B.

Although the session has already started and I have been up a few times already, I haven’t gotten the opportunity to fill you all in on the excitement. I know Hillary has told you about her wonderful new job with State Senator J.B. Jennings, so I wanted to inform you that you have another friend working in Annapolis this 2011 session.

This semester, I have the opportunity to not only work with an upstanding Republican lawmaker in Annapolis, but I have the chance to experience possibly the most exciting part of politics – lawmaking on the state level – while receiving credit! I applied for a program with UMBC’s Political Science department that would allow me to work, get a small but decent stipend, and receive upper-level credit, not to mention the fact that it is usually reserved for juniors and seniors! Needless to say, I am completely thrilled to have this opportunity and cannot wait to share more about it with you.

This session is going to be very important. Already dozens and dozens of bills are in the works down in Crabtown (what the natives call the beautiful city of Annapolis), all of which deal with pertinent and life-affecting legislation. Some of the big ones are, as always, the budget, which includes almost $1 billion in cuts and an “Invest Maryland” plan that would invest an estimated $100 million in small business and life sciences. The other prominent issue already introduced in bills is “marriage equality” within Maryland and whether or not it should be recognized.

Working in Annapolis gives both Hillary and I and the countless others the opportunity to see the action unfolding almost immediately. We also have the unique opportunity to share much of that excitement with you all via our blogs. But it does not stop there. Annapolis is a short skip and a hop from Baltimore and the senators and delegates are always happy to communicate with you and hear what you have to say regarding the issues that you are most passionate about.

So as I get ready to head back up to Baltimore after about a month in Southern Maryland, I am also about to dive head first into this internship where I will be learning so much about state level politics. I look forward to sharing with you my experiences as the semester and the session go on. See you all again soon!

Legislative Wrap Up: Top Issues in Annapolis

Every week Library and Information Services publishes a Legislative Wrap Up where they cover the major issues on the table in Annapolis.  The first one for the 2011 Session is out and there are some interesting points to note. 

First, guess who was elected President of the Maryland Senate?  Wow, we can’t pull the wool over your eyes, now can we?  Senator Mike Miller began his 25th year as President.  Seriously?  25 years?  And people wonder why we keep finding ourselves in the these budget crisis’.  If you’re never willing to change, how can you possibly expect different results?  Let’s hope Maryland wakes up in 2012 and 2014.  Hey, a girl can dream, right?

Second, let’s take a look at some of the major issues we’re facing this session. 

 civil unions and same sex marriages;
 federal health care reform implementation;
 in-state college tuition for immigrants;
 renewable energy requirements for utility companies;
 slots expansion;
 alcohol and gas tax increases, and
 pension reform.

Does anyone else see a pattern here?  It’s like they just copied the liberal platform and adopted it for the agenda.  You know what frustrates me even more?  There isn’t much we can do about it.  We just don’t have enough votes to make a difference.  As part of the grassroots movement in SW Baltimore County, I’m getting a first hand look at how incredibly important it is to get out there and educate the general population.  We can’t give up.  Now, who’s with me?

Now it’s not just the list that gets to me, it’s what’s lacking from the list as well, redistricting.  We’re not stupid; we knew that they would push off congressional redistricting to a special session in late August or September, but it’s interesting to note that they’re simply choosing the ignore it.  Instead of coming right out and at least warning us that we’re about to get screwed, our elected officials have decided to just pretend the issue doesn’t exist. 

I, for one, don’t think they should get away with this.  We need to call them out at public meetings, make them go on record with a  firm stance.  Use voice recorders and get videos.  If you see an elected official, whether they are from the General Assembly or the County Council, ask them what their plan is for redistricting.  Ask them if they plan to divide neighborhoods and communities.  Ask them why there are 5 congressional districts that come into Baltimore County and City. 

Don’t give up peeps.  There is much work to be done.  Come hang out with us tonight at our monthly Happy Hour.  We’re meeting at Dimitri’s on Frederick Rd in Catonsville between 5 and 8 pm.  Be there or be square.  (Yep, I just wrote that…deal with it).

There’s a First Time for Everything

Here I am sitting in a Starbucks in Annapolis waiting for my first day of work to begin.  It’s nerve racking really.  You’d think a confident woman such as myself would be geared up and raring to go, but walking into a completely new situation has put me a bit off kilter.  Driving down 97, I suddenly realized that I had absolutely no idea where I was going.  I’ve never been to the State House before, except to gather on a lawn with a few thousand fellow Marylanders to voice our concerns for high taxes and forced healthcare. 

So I called Nicole, a fellow Jennings team member, to direct me to a parking garage.  Turns out I’m a little early as no one is scheduled to be in the office until after 10.  Oops.  It’s all good though, I found my way to a Starbucks after driving around Church Circle a few times.  Now I’m settled in jotting down my thoughts before heading to Maryland’s own little Capitol Hill.

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what to expect.  Nothing like a new situation to stir up all this unsettling emotions.  It’s not the same as walking into a Central Committee  or PVRC, where I know 90% of the people, where I’m familiar with my surroundings, where I know what to expect.  Nope, this is entirely different. 

Granted, I’m totally blessed to be working with the likes of Senator JB Jennings.  Plus the fact that I already know half of his staff, like Rich Reinhardt and Nicole Ossola, is a much appreciated bonus, especially considering I don’t think I know anyone else in Annapolis. 

Here come to the self doubting questions: Am I dressed okay?  Do I stand out like a french fry on dieter’s plate? Am I going to say something completely up surd and become defined by my stupidity?

Give me a week or two and this whole process will become second nature.  I do tend to adapt well to new situations.  Let’s just hope I can fake my way through these first few moments.  You know us women; we’re good at faking things.  Not that we always have to, but it’s nice to know that we have that innate skill. 

Session starts Wednesday, which is my first official day.  This, this is simply orientation, and who’s suppose to know what their doing during orientation, right?  I’m taking this morning to get my bearings straight.  Come Wednesday I plan to be an old pro, or at the least, ready to pretend like I am.

So here goes nothing.  Watch out Annapolis.  Hillary is here and I’ve decided to take you by storm.