Following are the remarks that Maryland State Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), the only gay member of that body, delivered Thursday morning during the second day of debate on a bill that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in Maryland.
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for your leadership for moving this forward and helping us to have, I think, a very dignified debate in the Senate.
I’m going to start for a moment to remember one of our former colleagues, Gwen Britt, who many of the people in this room served with either in the Senate or the House and to remind people that, in fact, Sen. Britt was going to be the initial sponsor of this bill in 2008 when we introduced it. And it was her untimely death of a heart attack just three days before we were scheduled to introduce this bill that we wound up having to change the sponsorship. Sen. Britt was dedicated to this issue. Sen. Britt’s husband, Travis, in fact, will be submitting testimony tomorrow to the House Judiciary Committee in support of this issue, as he has remained committed. And I didn’t want to have this moment go by without remembering Gwenn Britt and her many contributions to improve the lives in our state and in our country.
I want to thank all of you for this debate and I want to thank the people of Maryland for what I think has been a very reasoned debate about an issue that can be very emotional that does challenge a lot of the beliefs many people have. I certainly appreciate the journey that all of us have been on in the Senate.
You know, this bill is quite simple. It has two parts to it. It reiterates that no religious denomination will ever be required to recognize or perform or bless or celebrate any marriage that is against its beliefs. At the same time, it provides full equality under the law for thousands of same-gender couples in our state, couples like Mark and myself. Many of you know Mark. Many of you have gotten to know him over the years — my partner.
But even using that term partner sounds a little odd. You know, we had a church wedding in our faith. We had a church wedding 10 years ago. We stood with our minister in front of our friends, in front of our family, in front of our community and made a vow to the commitment to each other — the commitment to love each other, to honor, to occasionally obey — to live our lives together. He in my heart is my spouse, even though the laws in the State of Maryland do not say he is — he is my spouse in every sense of the word.
But to the law, he remains a legal stranger to me. He is my partner. I wouldn’t ask any of you to call your spouses your partner because that makes it sound as if he’s your business associate, that your spouse is your business associate and not the person you choose to spend your life with.
Without full and equal civil marriage Maryland makes sure that thousands of its families never forget that they are outsiders, that they are not quite equal. Our state and our nation were founded on principle of fairness and equality. These principles are timeless. Unfortunately, their application has not always been so. Yet every generation of Americans has held out their hand to someone who had been left out of this promise, held out their hand and brought them into our civil society, saying you are not the other, you are us.
That is what this moment is about today. It’s about embracing all of the families of our state.
A few years ago I had a chance to be going on a walk with my daughter. It was a nice spring day and she was picking the little weed flowers that grow — the dandelions, the butter cups, the little flowers that grow on front lawns of people who don’t have time to put weed killer down, right? So she was picking the little flowers that, you know, have the white seed pods. When you blow it the little seeds go flying away. And she handed me one of those flowers and said, “Daddy, will you hold my wishes for me?” I said, “Hold your wishes?” She said, “Yes, my teacher told me this is a wishing flower. When you blow on it you make a wish and you let the wishes fly.”
That to me, in essence, is what parenthood is about. It’s about holding that precious little flower and blowing and seeing it blossom in all sorts of unexpected ways. It is also, I think the extreme honor that we get as members of the legislature to hold those wishes, not just for our family or for ourselves, but for our community.
And there are many people in our state who are wishing for this, whose live will be improved, whose hopes will be realized, whose dreams will become true if we enact this. This will be a memorable day, a memorable day that will improve the lives of thousands of families around our state, thousands of families like my own.
Mr. President, I can’t tell you how much I can’t wait for this debate to end — not today — so I can go back, as my colleague from the 20th District talked about, I can go back to being the boring budget geek that he so kindly recognized me in the Washington Post as being. I can’t wait to get back to the issues that all Marylanders, whether they are straight or gay, black or white, Hispanic — the ones that they want us to work on — the one Maryland issue of jobs and growth, of moving our state forward.
This bill moves our state forward. Other legislation that we will have this year will move our state forward. I am so proud that in Maryland we, as we have from the beginning, look towards toleration and towards the future and embrace of a better future for us all. I urge everyone to consider casting a green vote on this bill. And I once again thank you for your leadership and for the time in the body.