As Marylanders brace for another legislative fight over same-sex marriage early next year, Gov. Martin O’Malley this week debuted a (tepid) video endorsement of marriage equality. Meanwhile, a once supportive state lawmaker was indicted and ought to resign before the 2012 session begins.
O’Malley’s video runs a scant 30 seconds and focuses on religion.
“As a free and diverse people of many different faiths, we choose to be governed under the law by certain fundamental principles, among them equal protection of the law for every individual and the free exercise of religion without government intervention,” O’Malley says. “The legislation we plan to introduce in the 2012 legislative session will protect religious freedom and equality of marital rights under the law.”
Not exactly a full-throated defense of our humanity. The emphasis on religion is odd, given that the bill — and the larger fight for marriage equality — have nothing to do with couples wanting to walk the aisles of O’Malley’s Catholic church. Sure, it’s about rights and privileges afforded by the state, but it’s much bigger than that. It’s about respecting our relationships and basic humanity and citizenship as equal to that of our straight neighbors. Very few Democrats understand that or express it. During the congressional fight over President Bush’s Federal Marriage Amendment, only then-Sen. Ted Kennedy rose to defend our basic humanity. The other Democrats, including Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, made dry legalistic arguments that failed to acknowledge our families or love.
Another Democrat who “gets it” is New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who recorded his own marriage equality video back in May.
“Same-sex couples are denied rights that other New Yorkers take for granted,” Cuomo said. “Same-sex couples are denied over 1,000 federal and 700 state rights that are afforded to millions of others.” Specifically, Cuomo cites, “The opportunity to protect and care for one another; the freedom to express their lifelong commitment and the basic dignity of having a relationship recognized by the state they call home.” He continues, “It is not a question of religion. … Marriage equality is the next chapter of our civil rights story.”
The contrast is telling. O’Malley has been forced into taking a position he’s clearly uncomfortable with, despite the fact that he has a gay brother. Up until very recently, he’d been advocating for civil unions.
And let’s not forget O’Malley’s 2007 betrayal, when after the state’s high court ruled against marriage equality, he said, “I look forward to reading the court’s full opinion, but as we move forward, those of us with the responsibility of passing and enforcing laws have an obligation to protect the rights of all individuals equally, without telling any faith how to define its sacraments. I respect the court’s decision.”
That offensive statement represented just one of O’Malley’s tortured positions on the issue. In 2004, O’Malley told a Baltimore TV station that, “I’m not opposed to civil marriages.” Also in 2004, he sent an e-mail to a plaintiff in the state marriage lawsuit that read, “I’m just supporting something I strongly believe in,” referring to marriage equality. But by early 2006, O’Malley’s position was shifting and he said, “I was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. This is a fundamental issue of the state’s public policy, and a decision that ultimately should not be made by a single trial court judge. ” When confronted by gay activists after issuing that statement, O’Malley disavowed any previous support of marriage equality.
Despite this twisted, complicated history, we’ll accept his support now in the interest of passing the bill. But let’s not mistake O’Malley for a passionate supporter of LGBT equality. For that, we must look to New York’s governor.
At least O’Malley will support the bill. That’s more than we can say for Del. Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George’s), a one-time co-sponsor of the marriage equality bill, who later opposed it. Now Alston has been indicted for, among other things, felony theft related in part to allegations that she used campaign money to pay for her 2010 wedding expenses. The allegations would be funny, except that Alston’s flip-flop sabotaged the bill. She’s thoroughly unqualified for public office, as outlined by the Washington Post, which reported that she only got the job because her husband worked for a state senator’s daughter, which was all it took for the senator to put Alston on his slate. In Prince George’s County, that’s apparently all it takes to get elected. Alston denies wrongdoing. She’s a joke and should resign immediately.
It’s only October and the 2012 legislative session is still three months away but the sideshows have begun in earnest.