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Maryland's turmoil over gay marriage

Thursday’s anti-gay-marriage rally on Lawyers Mall. African-American preachers, Catholic congregants, lawmakers, mothers with children and busloads from around the state chanted, stomped and prayed during the two-hour rally, which mixed bipartisan religious fervor with political power; Republican Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has steered clear of hot-button social issues — so far. (Dan Gross/The Gazette)

This is a state that went Blue, folks, and the wingnuts in Maryland (including a growing number of black religious leaders) are coming out in force to show their opposition to gay civil marriage. (

Gay marriage is one of the hottest of the hot-button social issues, but Maryland’s top politicians are treating it like the proverbial hot potato. It became clear Thursday why the issue has become so politically explosive, as roughly 1,000 people demonstrated here in frigid weather for an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage.

For Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who has approached the issue gingerly, gay marriage holds the potential for political gain and pain. Ehrlich, who is pro-choice, has generally avoided conservative Republican social issues such as abortion. Characterizing himself as from the libertarian wing of the party, he has backed away from issues not always popular with conservatives, such as medical marijuana.

Ehrlich only mentions his opposition to gay marriage in response to reporters’ questions and is not pushing the constitutional amendment this year, although his aides have hinted at doing so next year. He did not attend the rally, which began shortly after his State of the State speech. “The reality is I don’t think anything is going to happen in either direction on this issue, so it wouldn’t make any sense for the governor to spend political capital on it,” Igoe said.

The one thing that is making me stark raving mad is this standard Kool-Aid-drinking response by Dems on this issue. It’s getting to be such a cliche that it comes across as such in the article. Please Democrats, someone take a f*cking stand on this issue. Everyone knows you are punting because you have no f*cking balls.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan was one of several Democrats interviewed Thursday to cling to the phrase “marriage is between a man and a woman” while saying they see no need for a constitutional amendment. [PUNT!] House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who opposes gay marriage but has backed additional rights for gay couples, agreed.

Maryland law is pretty clear. Marriage is between a man and a woman, and I support that [PUNT!], and I don’t see that issue changing,” he said. Busch added he does not see a need to act unless the courts see otherwise. “If the courts don’t act, there is no need to make a change,” said Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis. “Let it play out.” [PUNT!]

And then the wingnut makes my point that the Right is not going to let this rest, no matter how much fancy footwork the Democrats do to avoid the issue.

Delegates Donald Dwyer, Herbert McMillan and Charles Boutin don’t give a damn about the rights of their gay consituents. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. is one of three openly gay delegates in the Maryland legislature.

“We believe the time is right to bring this issue back and let the citizens of Maryland decide this once and for all,” said Del. Donald H. Dwyer (R-Dist. 31) of Glen Burnie, one of the leaders of the rally. “We will not stand any longer for moral depravity.” Del. Herbert H. McMillan (R-Dist. 30) of Annapolis said that he respects gay couples’ right to live together, but said they “do not have the right to redefine marriage to fit their lifestyle. When anyone can be married to anyone else, no one is really married at all.” Del. Charles R. Boutin (R-Dist. 34A) of Aberdeen, who sponsored the amendment last year, accused the Democratic leadership of quashing it in committee. “They know the votes are there to send this to the people,” he said.

Meanwhile, gay rights advocates are working to pass legislation that will bring gay couples ability to have medical power of attorney and to add gays to the state’s hate cimes law.

“The medical decision-making act will be back and we’ll be pushing it,” said Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington, one of three openly gay members of the legislature. The bill died in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee last year by a single vote but a committee shakeup has advocates hopeful for passage.

Madaleno said he is still hopeful of advancing a gay rights agenda although gay marriage in particular was dealt setbacks at the ballot box in 11 states in November, pointing to successes for advances for limited gay rights measures even in conservative states such as Utah. Madaleno said the issue poses a dilemma for Ehrlich, pointing to William Safire’s definition of the Republican Party’s two wings, one “righteous” and one “reasonable.” …Madaleno warned that while the governor may reap some political benefits if he jumps on the issue, he also faces pitfalls, pointing to “Morella Republicans” in Montgomery and Howard counties who might abandon him. He added that there is “an influential gay Republican community in this state that worked hard on his election. What happens to those people if Ehrlich comes out in support of a constitutional amendment?”

My question is, how many of these “influential gay Republicans” voted for Bush?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding