Md. Senate Votes to Support Marriage Equality; Gov. to Sign Legislation

February 23, 2012

by Jeremy Leaming

Maryland lawmakers late today voted to join seven other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing same-sex marriage. The marriage equality measure, sponsored by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), will now likely face voters, since religious rights special interests in the state have promised to work to drag the measure, the Civil Marriage Protection Act, before voters this fall.

One of the Senate’s leaders said the bill would end discrimination against same-sex couples and their families, and that it would not impact straight marriages. He said it was time to end state-sanctioned discrimination and allow gays and lesbians to wed. Another senator noted that this was not the first time the General Assembly had altered the civil right of marriage, noting that in the late 1960s it invalidated a ban on interracial marriage.

Following debate, which included many allusions to religion and “traditional” marriage, the Md. Senate passed the bill by a vote of 25 – 22. With the promise of O’Malley’s signature, likely to happen tomorrow, Maryland will become the eighth state to legalize same-sex marriage. The District of Columbia also recognizes same-sex marriage.  Like marriage equality laws in New York and Washington, the Maryland measure includes an exemption for houses of worship, meaning they will not be under a legal obligation to perform same-sex marriages or allow their facilities to be used for the marriages.

In an interview yesterday with one of the nation’s best gay reporters, Michelangelo Signorile, O’Malley (pictured) said he is confident a consensus has emerged in support of marriage equality. “There’s been an evolution in the broadest sense among the people of our state,” O’Malley said. He added that “people have come to realize that the way forward, among people of many different faiths, is always through the greater and broader respect for equal rights for all.”

UCLA law school professor Adam Winkler examines another major win for marriage equality in a piece for The Huffington Post. Winkler notes that earlier this week a federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush ruled that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.

Winkler called Judge Jeffrey White’s opinion “assertive and bold, calling into question every law that discriminates against LGBT people. White held that such laws are subject to ‘heightened scrutiny’ by the courts, which means that the laws will be struck down unless the government can show very good reasons, backed by strong evidence, for the disparate treatment.”

Although New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has chastised President Obama for allegedly not having the courage to support same-sex marriage, the president announced some time ago that the Department of Justice would stop defending DOMA in court. Christie, conversely, recently vetoed the N.J. legislature’s marriage equality bill, saying that civil liberties should be placed before the whims of voters. (That stance by Christie received a strong rebuke from Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who said civil liberties of minorities should never be subjected to popular vote.)

[image via MDGovpics]