February 8, 2012 at 5:24 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Marathon hearing set for Friday on Md. marriage bill

Luke Clippinger and Tiffany Alston are on opposite sides of the Md. marriage bill, and will be face to face this Friday. (Washington Blade photo of Clippinger by Michael Key / photo of Alston in public domain)

Officials with two committees of the Maryland House of Delegates planned for at least eight hours of testimony in Annapolis on Friday by witnesses for and against a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

In a scheduled joint hearing, the House Judiciary Committee and the Health and Government Operations Committee were also to hear testimony on a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

The hearing was to take place 10 days after nearly 100 witnesses testified on the marriage bill before a hearing of the Maryland Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee. Sources familiar with that committee said it was expected to vote to approve the same-sex marriage bill, known as the Civil Marriage Protection Act, on Thursday, Feb. 9.

“We think it will come up for a vote on that day, but we’re not absolutely certain,” said one knowledgeable source familiar with the committee.

Most political observers believe supporters of the same-sex marriage bill have the votes to pass in committee and in the full Senate. They say the vote in the House was expected to be close and its passage there was uncertain. Observers say the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage would likely be killed in committee.

Earlier this week, Rev. Al Sharpton, the nationally known civil rights leader from New York, became the latest public figure to record a video expressing support for same-sex marriage in Maryland.

“As a Baptist minister, I don’t have the right to impose my beliefs on anyone else,” Sharpton said in the video, which can be viewed on YouTube. “So if committed gay and lesbian couples want to marry, that’s their business. None of us should stand in their way,” he said.

Among the committee members expected to attend and ask questions at the joint House hearing on Friday were gay Dels. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore) and Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery County).

Also expected to participate in the hearing were Judiciary Committee members Sam Arora (D-Montgomery County), Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George’s County) and Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City). All three startled LGBT advocates last year when they announced they were changing their position from supporters to opponents of the marriage bill.

Arora, who shares the same legislative district as Cullison, drew expressions of outrage from some LGBT activists when he announced he would vote against the marriage measure on the House floor. The activists noted that he ran for his seat in the 2010 election on a platform in support of the marriage bill and signed on as one of its co-sponsors.

Arora, who has not responded to requests from the Blade for an interview, has said his newfound opposition to the bill is based on his religious beliefs.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Tiffany Alston shouldn’t even be a member of the legislature anymore. She was indicted for several criminal charges, for fraudulently using tax payers money and campaign funds. There goes her credit…

  • I strongly suggest you check the facts and write a retraction. AT NO TIME DID DELEGATE JILL P CARTER, LEG.DIST. 41 EVER ANNOUNCE OR STATE SHE HAD CHANGED HER POSITION.

  • Check the facts or actually speak to people that were there in committee or in the house of delegates. Do not just make up your own facts for expediency. What you have written is sloppy, careless, and incorrect. Alston and Arora had a change of heart, never Carter. When you write your own version of history, especially untrue, younot only compromise your integrity. but, you risk angering legislators and jeopardizing the causing the outcome of this legislation. it is clear you have not checked facts or read last year’s articles correctly, and you have definitely not spoken with any of the delegates you reference. That is not journalism.

  • Jeff, An indictment is not a conviction. Why not reserve comment until all the facts are determined by a court of law. Alston could well be the victim of a witch hunt, prosecutorial misconduct, or even a mistake, or frame up.

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