October 25, 2011 at 12:16 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Gansler predicts Md. marriage bill will pass in 2012

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler predicted today that same-sex marriage would be legalized in the state next year.

He made the remarks during a forum at the Center for American Progress about the bill and prospects for a referendum that could overturn it.

“Our governor is now on board and other state leaders are on board, so I do believe it will have the momentum to get passed,” Gansler said.

In February, a measure that would legalize same-sex marriage passed the Maryland State Senate by a vote of 25-21. But the House scuttled the bill after LGBT advocates determined they lacked the votes for passage.

Gansler said the marriage bill came close to passage earlier this year and failed because of “political misjudment.”

“They thought that the Senate side of the Maryland Assembly would be the difficult part, and it turned out to be the House side that was more difficult,” Gansler said.

Gansler said passage didn’t happen because of the “microcosm in the Assembly that exists in the state, the heavy African-American vote, and so forth.”

If the Maryland Legislature passed the marriage legislation, opponents of same-sex marriage could seek to overturn the law through a voter-initiated referendum. Such a measure could appear on the ballot in 2012 at the same time voters would be going to the polls in the presidential race.

Gansler said opponents of marriage equality would “very likely” be able to obtain the necessary signatures to place the referendum on the ballot based on what he’s observed with the state’s DREAM Act, which would authorize in-state tuition benefits at local community colleges to undocumented students in some cases.

“As we just found with the DREAM Act, you can do that over the Internet — get signatures — so it would be very likely that it would actually be put on referendum,” Gansler said.

Gansler added the act of finding enough signatures for the referendum “would stay the enactment” of any marriage law that comes out of the Maryland Legislature.

“In between that time, we’d get a referendum,” Gansler said. “So, it would never actually become law unless and until it went to the voters.”

Gansler said the referendum “could very easily pass” in Maryland and said “the problem is with people most likely to vote” during the election. Still, Gansler said Maryland “would be the place” for a measure rescinding same-sex marriage to fail.

“I believe it’s the most liberal state now in the country, more so than Massachusetts in terms of Democrat-to-Republican registration,” Gansler said.

Gansler added that if the statute banning same-sex marriage remains in place, litigation could benefit gay couples because of the opinion he issued in 2009 saying out-of-state same-sex marriages should be recognized.

“Because of the opinion that I drafted, I believe that it’ll be challenged,” Gansler said. “It’ll go through the courts and be challenged at that point, and I think the Court of Appeals will find the law to be unconstitutional sometime between now and the end of that whole process.”

Gansler said a couple of cases “are already percolating” on whether same-sex couples can be divorced in Maryland who were married in another state. Another case in Western Maryland, Gansler said, challenged the law on the basis of the “spousal privilege.”

“The judge used our opinion in upholding the notion that this couple does have a spousal privilege because they were married in another state,” Gansler said.

Gansler continued, “So, I think if we go to the courts, we will win there. So, I think we win either way; it might take some time.”

The Maryland attorney general made the remarks during a forum highlighting a new report, titled “All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families,” which examines how shortcomings in the legal system negatively affect 2 million children living in LGBT families. The report was published by the Movement Advancement Project.


Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Let us not forget the central role of Del. Tiffany Alston in the last Marriage debacle.


    Alston co-sponsored a bill to legalize same-sex marriage but then left a hearing room with another lawmaker just before the bill came up for a vote. Before a subsequent vote, Alston introduced an amendment seeking to revert the legislation to authorize civil unions, not same-sex marriage. When that failed, she voted against the legislation, saying her vote was “for my constituents.” [Constituents meaning Money from NOM no doubt] The same-sex marriage bill died in the House of Delegates in March.
    Subsequently Alston was indicted on Multiple Charges and is accused of using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, including $3,560 to cover her 2010 wedding expenses.

    State prosecutor Emmet Davitt announced a series of charges including: one count of felony theft; one count of misdemeanor theft; one count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary and two election law violations. The felony charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

    “There is simply no excuse for candidates or their responsible campaign finance officers to flagrantly and repeatedly violate the requirements of the law in the conduct of their campaign finances,” Davitt said in a statement. James Cabezas, the lead investigator in the case, said the office decided not to place Alston under arrest but instead presented her with a criminal summons instructing her to appear in court where she will be formally charged.

  • First, we need to replace some of the traitorous anti-gay Dems in the House and Senate with Pro-LGBT Progressive Democrats. Then we need to get rid of about 80% of the Republicans in each chamber and replace them with Progressives as well. The attorney general is correct about Maryland becoming more Progressive and supportive of LGBT rights, but there are still a lot of ignorant people out there, and some of these people still hold elected office in Maryland.

  • Getting this passed through the General Assembly will be nowhere near as difficult as preventing its being repealed on referendum (which is almost certain to happen). Strategic efforts would best be expended on educating the general population in an easy-to-understand, non-threatening way about why it’s in everyone’s best interests to provide legal recognition and support for same-sex families. You can bet your bottom dollar that the opponents will resort to their standard tactic of fear-mongering and spreading distortions to get their repeal votes from people who are susceptible to their message. We need to pre-empt that message with our public education campaign before theirs has a chance to take root.

  • I think homosexuals should have ALL THE RIGHTS normal people have, but homosexual marriage goes too far. I think it would be bad for children to be forced to grow up with two “dads” and no mommy. that is cruel.

    Let civil unions have hospital, wills, and social security rights, and job rights too
    just dont change marriage

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