The Maryland Senate has just passed Governor O’Malley’s same-sex marriage bill, one week after the Maryland House passed an identical bill. Democratic Governor O’Malley, who sponsored the bill, will sign it, making Maryland the eighth state and ninth jurisdiction, including the District of Columbia, to offer civil marriage to all citizens. The vote was 25-22.
As expected, anti-equality lawmakers fought hard to include poison pill amendments to the bill, and worked hard to strengthen the so-called “religious protections” in the bill. In an freakish example of the anti-gay fringe’s attempt to derail existing public accommodations laws, one Senator even suggested that Churches whose facilities are rented by the government to be used as polling places should be able to deny gays and lesbians the right to vote in their establishment.
Other Senators sought to protect the churches that are anti-gay from gays wanting to be married by a hostile pastor.
Sadly, the debate assumed that there are many religious institutions that actually do not want to be of service to gays and lesbians, which is false.
The debate about public accommodations was terribly reminiscent of laws that existed to deny Blacks the right to eat in restaurants of their choice.
Senator Brinkley read a long letter claiming — falsely — that religious opposition is unlike religious opposition to interracial marriage. “If you help someone violate the laws of God you have violated those laws yourself.” The letter, written apparently by Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia Law School, took over a half hour to read and discuss, and was offensive on its face.
Senator Brinkley demanded he be able to read the entire letter — which became more like a filibuster — and demanded all information entered into the record be read aloud.
Ultimately the amendment that was created to “protect” religious institutions was defeated by a wide margin.
Needless to say, the level of anti-gay animus directed at “protecting” religious institutions was high — and also offensive.
Senator Reilly also filibustered and droned on and on, shamefully attacking marriage equality advocates.
At the end, Senator Kittleman, who says he was raised an atheist but “came to faith later in life,” noted religion is a choice but sexual orientation is not. Senator Kittleman noted that “45 years ago this month, Maryland legislature voted to repeal inter-racial marriages.” He delivered a beautiful speech supporting equality, and we thank him.
Supporting equality, Senator Delores Kelley at the end noted that no one’s home life will be different if this bill passed — no one will buy groceries differently, or do a budget differently.
“We may not know why people are gay, but we know they are fully human, and have the same rights we do,” she said.
Sen. Lisa Gladden said, “Marriage is in trouble,” then quoted Jackie Robinson, the first African-American baseball player, who said “the game got better when everyone was allowed to play.” She voted for marriage equality.
Senate President Miller, voting no, last month was urging “Evangelicals, Catholics, African Americans” to oppose the bill. Miller said he knew he would be on the wrong side of history, and would have to deal with that fact. He will.
Fortunately, the bill passed, and Maryland has joined the 21st century!
Image: Senate vote board, by Equality Maryland, via Twitter.
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