Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Same Sex Marriage Debate Heats Up in Maryland Legislature

From the Baltimore Sun:

On the day before the House of Delegates was expected to begin debate on same-sex marriage, lawmakers received a letter from six gay colleagues.

"Vote yes because you know it is the right thing to do," the delegates wrote this morning. "Vote yes because you want to stand on the right side of history. Vote yes because every family in Maryland needs the protections that marriage provides."

This afternoon, opponents of gay marriage from Pennsylvania played bagpipes outside the lawmakers’ offices, displayed a banner that read: "God’s Marriage = 1 man & 1 woman," and encouraged like-minded motorists to honk.

As they prepare to open debate tomorrow on legislation that would allow gay couples to marry, members of the divided House are facing pressure from all sides.

The Senate has already approved the plan. House passage would send the bill to the governor’s desk, where Democrat Martin O’Malley has promised to sign it.

Delegates have heard from hundreds of constituents, received a flood of e-mails from supporters and opponents and, in some cases, struggled internally with how to vote. Several of them — including co-sponsors — have changed their positions. Dozens remain publicly uncommitted.

"The vote is close, probably an even split," said Del. Maggie McIntosh, the most senior of the six openly gay delegates. "A healthy handful of people are still making up their minds."

The Baltimore Democrat said that most of those delegates have told her they support same-sex marriage personally, but believe their constituents largely oppose it.

Because neither supporters nor opponents are confident in how the 141-member House will vote after what could be several days of debate, both sides have been laboring to convince the holdouts.

The Civil Marriage Protection Act would repeal the state’s legal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, enabling officials to beging issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The legislation attracted 59 co-sponsors; it needs 71 votes to pass.

The Senate voted 25-21 to approve the bill last month after several hours of discussion spanning two days. Senators on both sides of the issue congratulated themselves on the even tone of the debate.

Read more here.

AC

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