January 13, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Md. lawmaker claims marriage votes spurred alcohol abuse
Maryland Marriage Alliance, same sex marriage, gay marriage, gay news Washington Blade

Del. Don Dwyer said lawmakers who backed the 2012 same-sex marriage bill contributed to his alcohol abuse. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A Maryland lawmaker told a local newspaper last week that legislators who voted for the state’s same-sex marriage bill contributed to his alcohol abuse.

Delegate Don Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel County) told the Maryland Gazette in an interview the newspaper posted to its website on Saturday that he felt “betrayed” when Dels. Wade Koch (R-Baltimore County) and Robert Costa (R-Anne Arundel County) and then-Del. Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George’s County) in Feb. 2012 backed for the measure that Gov. Martin O’Malley eventually signed into law. Alston and Koch voted against the bill while it was in committee, while Costa supported it.

“That betrayal really affected me,” Dwyer told the newspaper. “I was physically ill. You pour your heart into an issue like that and it’s devastating.”

Maryland Natural Resource Police last month charged Dwyer, 54, with operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, reckless and negligent operation of a vessel, failing to register his boat and rules-of-the-road violation in connection with an Aug. 22 incident on the Magothy River in Anne Arundel County that left him, two other adults and four children injured.

The Anne Arundel County Republican who has been a member of the House of Delegates since 2003 admitted to reporters the day after the crash that he was drinking before his boat collided with Mark “Randy” Harbin’s vessel. Dwyer admitted in a Jan. 8 post to his Facebook page that he is struggling with alcohol.

“In the past year I have faced both personal and professional challenges that were extremely difficult for me,” he wrote. “As a result, and regrettably so, I turned to alcohol to cope. As many of you know, this culminated in a serious boat accident in August when the boat I was operating was struck by another vessel. Though I am unable to discuss the accident itself due to the pending court case, I thought it important that I share with you the steps I have personally taken to address my problem with alcohol.”

Dwyer, who said in his Facebook post he “enjoyed beer or wine socially” before 2012, added he voluntarily entered and completed a treatment program. He said he remains “committed to attending extensive aftercare counseling” and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

“It is extremely difficult to lay bare a deeply personal issue in such a public way,” Dwyer said. “However, I believe it is the right thing to do, as I feel answerable to the folks who chose me to represent them in the legislature. I know you have been shocked and disappointed as a result of how I conducted myself. I don’t know if I am to be forgiven, but I certainly hope to regain your confidence.”

Dwyer, who also separated from his wife of 31 years in Nov. 2011, has been one of Maryland’s most outspoken opponents of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

He argued before lawmakers approved the state’s same sex marriage bill that the legalization of nuptials for gays and lesbians in Massachusetts in 2004 indoctrinated the state’s public school students to homosexuality.

Dwyer, who has introduced several measures that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman in the Maryland constitution, in 2006 tried to remove Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdoch from the bench after she found the state’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The Anne Arundel County Republican also sought to impeach Attorney General Doug Gansler following his 2010 announcement that the state would recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

Dwyer did not return the Washington Blade’s request for comment about his Jan. 8 Facebook post. He wrote, however, is “committed to renewing my focus to defending personal liberty, property rights and Second Amendment rights.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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