It’s a busy time for LGBT Marylanders. The 2012 legislative session is underway with two high-profile LGBT bills commanding attention. Lawmakers will debate a same-sex marriage bill and another measure to bar discrimination based on gender identity and expression.
Meanwhile, a group of area LGBT executives has launched a new professional networking group called the Maryland Corporate Council (marylandcorporate.org). As a longtime Maryland resident, I’m serving on the group’s board because I have long lamented the widespread apathy in the state’s LGBT community. Unlike in D.C., where it’s impossible for a politician to espouse homophobic views without paying a serious political price, even some Democrats in Maryland get away with attacking our community. And although the Corporate Council is not a political organization, the growing visibility of the state’s LGBT business leaders can only have a positive impact on the climate for LGBT Marylanders.
Just last week, we were reminded of the work that lies ahead, when Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, denounced efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in the state in a radio interview.
Miller said the marriage bill amounts to an “attack on traditional families.”
“I don’t want to sound like one of the Republican candidates for president, but I am what I am,” Miller said. “My mother and father were married for 50 years, I got 5 children, I got 13 grandchildren, I’m a traditionalist.”
He noted that he committed to bring the bill to a vote last year, which passed the Senate, 25-22. It was pulled in the House when supporters determined they didn’t have the votes to pass it. Miller’s supporters say we should thank him for allowing a vote at all, but the widespread speculation in Annapolis is that Miller allowed the vote, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because of a backdoor political deal in which he owed someone a favor.
Miller claimed — erroneously — that Catholic Charities is “out of business” in Massachusetts as a result of that state’s marriage equality law. Catholic Charities, of course, has opted to stop providing adoption services rather than abide by non-discrimination laws. It’s a false claim advanced last week by none other than Newt Gingrich. So Miller does indeed sound like one of the Republicans running for president. Miller also predicted the bill would be overturned in a referendum if it passes.
It’s a disappointing way to start the session, when there’s so much optimism and energy around passing both the marriage and gender identity and expression non-discrimination bills. Of course, Miller sabotaged the trans rights bill last year, too.
“Mike Miller wants it dead, it’s that simple,” Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk told the Blade in an interview last year regarding the trans bill. “Out of 94 bills that the House passed and sent to the Senate in a timely fashion, this was the only bill that went to the Rules Committee — the only bill,” she said. The Rules Committee is where bills are sent to die.
Supporters of both bills should speak out and denounce Miller’s offensive and inaccurate comments. They are divisive and unnecessary. He is a dinosaur who came to office 40 years ago. Marriage equality is inevitable and Miller is, as usual, on the wrong side of history.
Let’s hope the presence of more openly LGBT business leaders, like those in the Maryland Corporate Council, and the visibility of more openly gay political leaders, like Del. Peter Murphy, who’s profiled in this week’s Blade, will lead to a more just tomorrow for all Marylanders.