February 21, 2012 at 8:03 am EST | by Kevin Naff
Arora aide resigns in protest after marriage vote

A senior adviser to Maryland Del. Sam Arora has abruptly resigned in protest over Arora’s vote against the state’s same-sex marriage bill.

Joshua Lapidus, Arora’s legislative director, quit Friday night just after the marriage vote in a scathing resignation letter obtained by the Blade.

“I respect you and your beliefs, however I cannot respect your decision to place personal religious belief over the roles and responsibilities of the stewardship the people of District 19 entrusted unto you,” Lapidus wrote. He added, “It saddens me that you are standing against the tide of history and ending your career over an issue that will no doubt be decided in the affirmative, with or without your vote, over the next couple years.  So, I write this letter to inform you that if you vote don’t vote for HB 438 l can no longer work under your employ.”

Arora campaigned in 2010 in support of the bill and sponsored the measure last year, before suddenly changing his position and opposing it by the end of the 2011 legislative session. He voted against it Friday.

Arora continues to decline interview requests, but he issued a brief statement to the Blade in response to Lapidus’s resignation.

“I don’t comment on personnel issues,” Arora wrote. “That said: Josh continues to be a friend, and I wish him well.”

Another one-time friend of Arora’s, columnist and Democratic strategist Karl Frisch, praised Lapidus for stepping down.

“I think it’s gutsy,” Frisch said. “It’s the right move and shows that we had allies working on our behalf in his office.”

Frisch, a D.C. resident, donated $100 to Arora’s campaign in 2010 and said he knew Arora socially for several years. But after rumors emerged that Arora’s marriage position was changing, Frisch said his calls and emails went unreturned.

“I feel personally betrayed,” Frisch said. “I don’t take candidates’ word for it — he was listed as a co-sponsor of the bill and filled out an Equality Maryland questionnaire [on marriage]. … I’m used to politicians lying, I’m not used to being lied to by a friend.”

After Friday’s vote, Frisch said he took part in a conference call with a group of “national and Maryland-based political operatives to discuss every tool we can deploy to send Sam packing in 2014.”

He declined to reveal the specifics of what was discussed or who else participated on the call. But Frisch added that he’s heard that Gov. Martin O’Malley personally lobbied Arora and reportedly told him that his career is over if “he doesn’t vote the right way.”

Frisch said he supports Jay Hutchins for the District 19 seat in 2014. Hutchins ran and lost in the Democratic primary in 2010. He recently began recruiting supporters for a 2014 race.

It’s unclear exactly why Arora switched his position on the marriage bill, though the speculation is that his religious beliefs played a part in the decision to vote no. Lapidus addressed the religion issue in his resignation letter.

“We have a right to be religious,” he wrote. “You have a right to disagree with the marital union between not just a man and a woman. But we do not have the right to impose our religious beliefs on the people of Maryland and impede societal progress. You will be on the wrong side of history and l will not have any part in it.”


Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

  • Good for Lapidus and Good for Frisch. I wish I lived in the 19th district. I would help Arora’s opponent in 2014. I may still regardless of living in Baltimore.

  • I think that once the people of District 19 choose who they want to run against Arora that a large group of activists will help that person, he or she, to have a well financed campaign. The issue with Arora isn’t only his vote against the tide of history – it is his lying about it. Maryland and District 19 can do better than Arora.

  • I live in Philly and fully intend to do whatever I can — donating, driving down to volunteer, anything — to help Arora’s primary opponent.

  • How is it that one year Mr. Arora’s religion allowed him to co-sponsor marriage equality and then later that year and this year his religion called on him to oppose it?

  • God is referenced in multiple locations in the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence (DOI), including, in the DOI, “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” As such, I find that our Nation was founded on “religious beliefs.” If Arora wants to base his vote on “religious beliefs” then he has every right to. What’s good enough for the founding fathers is good enough for Arora. I praise Arora for his courage.

    • No, God is not referenced in the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence, important as it is in our history, is not the foundation of our law.

      And remember, enslaving black people, treating women as disenfranchised chattel, and refusing poor men the right to vote were also “good enough for our founding fathers”. Our founding fathers were seriously wrong about some things.

    • Where does god appear in the constitution? The DOI refers to Nature’s God but more importantly than that it is not a legal document. And even more important than both of those infs – Arora lied about his intention.

    • Except that God isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, which is the document upon which our legal system is established. No court case has ever been resolved by interpreting the Declaration of Independence…

      Furthermore, decisions about civil equality should never, I repeat, never, be based upon religious convictions. If you take the time to read it, you’ll find that the Constitution has an establishment clause separating church and state in this country, and it is upon that document that lawmakers are expected to make their decisions.

    • Your view of religious freedom as enshrined in the Constitution and Declaration is simplistic at best. Mainly, you ignore the “freedom” aspect of religion as presented in these documents. The country was not founded to impose religion on anyone, that is what our founding fathers were escaping from. They are rolling over in their graves with people like Arora and you using their words to justify imposing your religious views on others. Read some history and stop listening to the spin masters at Faux News.

    • The Founding Fathers also supported slavery and denied women the vote; yet, somehow, perhaps a result of Locke and Voltaire, they found a way to create the first amendment. Religion and moral code of conduct are two separate issues and must remain so if we are to maintain our Constituion. Natural law and natural rights as given to all persons in the natural state does not mean the application of one religious belief over all citizens.

    • Doesn’t “all men are created equal” apply to GLBT persons, too (understanding the use of ‘men’ to mean ‘humans’)?
      And it is never right to allow the majority to vote on the rights of a minority–guess who will lose?

  • To those who doubt that the US Constitution contains the word God or reference to religious beliefs, one need look no further than the summary statement just prior to signatures where it states “…done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand…” To me Lord is God and vice versa.

    • You’re an idiot. That’s not something that i routinely say, but I’m making an exception in your case. Posters have proven you wrong on your stance (which I attributed to mere ignorance), but you are so mule-headed that you refuse to acquiesce even when you know you’re talking pure crap.

  • It is impossible for someone to separate their religious views from the rest of their life. The whole point of religion is to infuse one’s life with spirituality. Lapidus does not seem to understand this. He goes on to make other errors, namely claiming that Arora’s decision will end his political career and even that Arora’s religion played any part in his vote. The article itself says that the reasons for Arora’s switch are unclear. It is likely that politics (read reelection financing) was at the heart of it.

    All of that said, Lapidus was right that the tide of history was moving in favor of same-sex marriage. Canada promotes equal rights for the LGBTQ community including marriage, and as a Canadian, I applaud the efforts in the U.S. to attain similar rights, although it is taking a VERY long time. Even in Canada there is still work to be done.

    • It’s not at all impossible to separate the two. Governor Gregoire did it. Governor O’Malley did it. Governor Lynch did it. And the list goes on and on. The only people who are incapable of separating their religious beliefs from their civic duties are fundamentalists, and they have no business serving in government. If you disagree, take a look at the Middle East and get back to me.

  • @Steve: Our Nation was built on a broad Judeo-Christian concept. That concept is woven throughout our founding documents and in the beliefs of those who wrote them. If Arora wants to invoke his conscience and oppose gay marriage based on his religious beliefs, then who am I to say he is wrong? In fact, everyone who voted for or against gay marriage did so based on their conscience. I don’t hear you and others squawking about that with regards to those voting in the affirmative, do I? As I’ve stated correctly, there are religious references in the Constitution, DOI, and all our founding documents. Bottom line: Why should anyone expect anything different from Arora? By electing someone to office, you do so based on a “guess” that they will vote precisley as you would. Sometimes, you lose.

    • You really are clueless. “In the year of our Lord” is the Anglocized translation of “Anno Domini,”, or, as you might know it, “A.D.” These are merely the standardized designations for time when referencing the Gregorian calendar. They have been used throughout the history of Western civilization in both civic and religious contexts; and when used in the former context, they are devoid of any religious undertones that might otherwise accompany them.

      Furthermore, if the Founders wanted to base our legal system off of the Judeo-Christian value system, as you contend, one would think they would have been more explicit in their wishes, instead of sneaking in the word “Lord” at the end and hoping that everyone would fet the message. To that point, you might also be interested to learn that there have been several attempts by religious movements (believing that the Constitution was too secular) to amend the Constitution to include a “Christian nation” amendment. Each attempt, from shortly after ratification onward, has failed spectacularly. The Constitution established the United States as a secular nation that affords its citizens the right to practice whatever faith they choose. However, those citizens who choose to serve in public office must do so with the understanding that their decisions should be based on constitutional principles, not religious dogma.

      Educate yourself before you speak, lest you embarrass yourself further.

    • so, does one person’s idea of religion then stand in for the hundreds of thousands of people represented? NO. And it was never intended to be that way. The founders cleared believed in a civil society, not one where theologians parsed their bibles or torahs and then decided for everyone. That’s so clear as to be unimpeachable.

  • @Sec: I stand by my last post. In fact, let me expand. The word “God” appears on our money and in our Pledge of Allegiance as well as a multitude of other “modern” and “founding” documents of our country. Our founding fathers intended (what part of “intended” do you not understand?) to have our Nation premised on Judeo-Christian beliefs. Therefore, don’t complain when a politician votes his/her conscience based wholly or in part on their religious beliefs. That’s what Arora did. Respect his choice and his vote. And, if you’re his constituent, if you disagree with his/her performance in office then you have the right to vote for someone else. Beware: voting for someone else may get you someone who is even further distant from your core beliefs. I encourage you, and others, to look at Arora’s record as a whole, not just one issue – his vote on gay marriage.

    • The word “God” was added to the Pledge and to our paper currency in 1954 and 1957, respectively. How in the hell are you reading these two events, both of which were centuries removed from the Constitution’s ratification and have no binding impact on our legal system whatsoever, as evidence for the Founders’ intentions regarding the separation of church and state? If you want to understand the Founders’ intentions on these matters, all you have to do is read the First Amendment of our Constitution! That is our founding document. It is the standard against which all of our laws and systems of government are measured, and it should be the standard against which our elected officials make their decisions on issues facing our country.

      As for Arora, I will respect neither his choice to place his religious beliefs ahead of my civil rights nor his vote to deny equal protection under the law (that’s in the Fourteenth Amendment, by the way, just in case you’re as uninformed on constitutional law as you appear to be) to scores of Marylanders. Those are decisions that will bring nothing but shame to him and his legislative career. Future generations of historians will be just as unkind to those sorts of discriminatory actions as current historians are to the actions of segregationists who were equally as sure of their moral rectitude as opponents to marriage equality appear to be.

  • “I don’t hear you and others squawking about …”

    You didn’t hear me “sqawking” about anything. In fact, I was agreeing that it was OK for Aurora to infuse his religion into his decisions (if in fact, that was what happened). But you like to hear your self talk.

  • @Northern Bystander: I wasn’t responding to you. If you notice you’ll see an @Sec. Dunce.

  • @Sec: It’s clear that you’re unable or unwilling to recognize/accept the fact that our Nation’s foundation is Judeo-Christian in nature and that religious beliefs, whether you like it or not, play a part in all of our -even politicians – thought processes, values, core beliefs, and, yes, votes. Arora is human, therefore his religious beliefs play a role in how he votes regardless of whether he’s a politician or a salesman. It would be utopic if he were able to rise above his religious beliefs, but he didn’t. So continue to give your money to moveon.org and lead the battle to oust Arora. That is your right.

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