BALTIMORE — Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley called on state lawmakers to pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and another measure barring discrimination based on gender identity during a speech Sunday at the Creating Change conference sponsored by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.
“Maryland can be the seventh state to pass a civil marriage equality law,” O’Malley said. “We need to get it done this year.”
In a short speech that included references to Baltimore’s role in the creation of the United States, O’Malley repeatedly cited the need to protect religious liberties and called for a civilized debate on the contentious issue of marriage.
“Laws matter but words also matter,” he said, “… we must choose words of compassion.”
He also spoke about the bill to ban anti-transgender discrimination.
“Discrimination [based] on gender identity is wrong,” O’Malley said to loud applause. “Passing a law to protect transgender people … is the right thing to do.”
Fellow Democrat Thomas “Mike” Miller, the Maryland Senate president, does not support the bill. According to Gender Rights Maryland, Miller said he only has time “for one gay bill this session.”
“We do not have Senate President Miller’s support,” Gender Rights Maryland said in a statement. “That has been the case for five years, and remains the overwhelming roadblock.”
O’Malley’s remarks came during the closing brunch of the 24th annual Creating Change conference, which drew about 3,000 attendees to Baltimore. His wife, first lady Katie O’Malley, spoke Thursday and caused a minor stir when she referred to opponents of the bill in last year’s session as “cowards.” She later issued a statement that she regretted those comments. Gov. O’Malley did not directly mention the incident in his remarks Sunday, though he did make a veiled reference to his wife.
He said that sometimes people “respond with words of hurt rather than words of healing” and added that “we must also have the humility and strength to apologize and seek forgiveness.”
O’Malley was introduced by Task Force deputy executive director Darlene Nipper, who described the O’Malleys as “very good friends to our community.” O’Malley was warmly received by the packed crowd and received a standing ovation at the end of his remarks.
Lyndsay Smith, 28, a Towson University graduate student and longtime Maryland resident, said it was important to hear directly from the governor.
“I don’t think he said anything that’s not been said before,” she said. “But there’s power in his being here and having his support.”
The Maryland Senate is scheduled to take up the marriage bill this week. A committee hearing is set for Tuesday in Annapolis.