June 28, 2012 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Md. congressional delegation backs marriage
Elijah Cummings, Maryland, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Elijah Cummings, whose district includes Baltimore City, said in a statement released Wednesday, “The Maryland Legislature has spoken. I respect its decision and will not oppose it. It’s now up to the voters to decide whether to uphold the law.”

Maryland’s two Democratic senators and five of its eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives either support or won’t oppose the state’s same-sex marriage law, which will go before voters in a referendum on Nov. 6.

In response to a Washington Blade survey, the offices of Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Reps. Donna Edwards, Steny Hoyer, John Sarbanes, and Chris Van Hollen – all Democrats – said the lawmakers strongly support the same-sex marriage law.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), whose district includes Baltimore City, said in a statement released Wednesday, “The Maryland Legislature has spoken. I respect its decision and will not oppose it. It’s now up to the voters to decide whether to uphold the law.”

The state’s remaining three House members, Republicans Roscoe Bartlett and Andy Harris and Democrat C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, did not respond to the Blade’s inquiries seeking their position on the marriage law.

Bartlett, who has represented a district in Western Maryland considered to be the most conservative and Republican-leaning part of the state, received a “0” rating on LGBT-related issues from the Human Rights Campaign in the 111th Congress spanning the years 2009-2010. HRC doesn’t release its ratings for the current Congress spanning 2011-2012 until September or October.

Harris, who represents the Republican-leaning Eastern Shore section of the state, is serving in his first term, after defeating Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in the 2010 election. HRC won’t have a rating for him until it releases its 2012 ratings later this year.

Ruppersberger, considered a moderate Democrat, represents a district that includes the Baltimore suburbs and surrounding counties. LGBT activists in Maryland have expressed disappointment that he hasn’t co-sponsored any of the LGBT rights legislation that his fellow Democratic House members in the state have backed, including the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. HRC has given him an overall rating of 75 on a rating scale of 0 to 100.

Cummings, while not coming out directly for the marriage equality law, received a HRC rating of 100.

“We’re pleased a majority of the Maryland congressional delegation support the state’s new marriage law that protects religious freedom,” said Josh Levin, campaign manager for Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group leading the campaign to uphold the law in the referendum vote.

In an earlier statement released to the Blade last week, Cummings said that while he would not interfere with the “will” of the state legislature on the same-sex marriage law, he added, “I support civil unions, which would ensure that people who care for one another will be able to jointly purchase property, assign Powers of Attorney, make decisions about healthcare for one another, and establish other essential contractual relationships.”

In the statement he issued on Wednesday, June 27, Cummings did not mention civil unions.

“Like many of my friends and colleagues, I have been on a journey when it comes to supporting same-sex marriage,” he said in his statement. “When you come from a religious background where you’ve been taught all your life that marriage is between a man and a woman, and then you find yourself looking at how a society is changing and how many in your own community are seeing the issue in terms of fairness and equality, it makes you re-think your position,” he said.

“I identify with, for instance, President Obama’s evolution on the topic,” Cummings said.

Last month, Obama announced his full support for marriage equality, saying his evolution on the issue was completed.

Political observers in Maryland, meanwhile, note that changes in the state’s congressional districts based on the required 10-year reapportionment due to population changes has significantly altered Bartlett’s district. Observers say a Democrat now has a shot at defeating Bartlett, who is serving in his 10th term.

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

2 Comments
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