Monday, October 3, 2011

In Maryland, A New Push for Marriage Equality will Face Old Foes... and Friends

The Washington Post is reporting that the group Marylanders for Marriage Equality will soon launch a new web campaigned aimed at winning over support for same-sex marriage legislation during the state's next legislative session in early 2012.  Mimicking a similar, and seemingly successful, ad campaign in New York, the new web ads will feature high profile folks offering their support for marriage equality.

As reported in the Post:
"Organizers insist the web campaign is only loosely patterned on that of New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) pushed a same-sex marriage bill through the legislature in June. About 50 of the 30-second videos were produced in the run-up to the votes there."
But certainly they are hoping for a similar outcome.

Legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in Maryland has been passed by the Maryland House of Delegates in the past - only to die in the more conservative state Senate. In 2011, however, the Senate provided a shock to the system by passing the bill by a margin of 25-21. When faced with the reality of casting a vote that would legalize same-sex marriage, several former supporters in the House of Delegates succumbed to pressure (largely from religious groups) and an odd coalition of Republicans, conservative Democrats, and African-American delegates effectively killed the bill.

After receiving criticism for standing on the sidelines during much of the debate, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley recently announced his support for marriage equality and his intention to sponsor a bill in the 2012 legislative session.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have openly and frequently and passionately expressed my support for marriage equality and have criticized O'Malley for his lack of support in the past - and I would appear in a web ad supporting marriage equality if ever asked - but I am not convinced that the 2012 legislative session will be any more amenable to legalizing same-sex marriage and I worry that the web ads could serve to mobilize a backlash.

The General Assembly is currently reeling from the highly successful petition effort to halt the Maryland Dream Act and I do not see members of the Assembly eager to face another public repudiation.

Additionally, I think the Senate may be a less friendly place for the legislation in 2012. During a recent conversation with a Maryland state Senator (who shall remain nameless) I was told that several Senators who had previously voted "Yes" in 2011 are under significant pressure to vote "No" in 2012 - and a few of them have indicated that they are leaning toward voting "No." Two defections would produce a tie, three would kill the bill - only 19 votes are needed to filibuster.

When asked whether O'Malley's support would be sufficient to ensure passage of the marriage equality bill, the Senator simply replied "O'Malley is no Cuomo."

The American public has moved in the direction of supporting same-sex marriage, Marylanders for MArriage Equality have lined-up an impressive group of allies - especially Tessa Hill-Alston, president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP. Only time will tell if it will be enough to overcome the deeply entrenched opposition that worked so effectively and quickly to defeat the measure in 2011.

Stay tuned...