May 8, 2014 at 1:29 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Md. Democratic gubernatorial candidates hold first televised debate

Heather Mizeur, Maryland, Anthony Brown, Doug Gansler, gay news, Washington Blade

The three leading Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidates held their first televised debate on Wednesday at the University of Maryland. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Post)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Maryland’s three leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates on Wednesday briefly touched upon marriage rights for same-sex couples during their first televised debate that took place at the University of Maryland.

Attorney General Doug Gansler noted in 2008 he became the first statewide official to back gay nuptials when he testified before a Maryland Senate committee — embattled state Del. Don Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel County) later tried to impeach him. Gansler in 2010 wrote an opinion that said Maryland would recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

“I was five years ahead of most people on the issue of marriage equality,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said he and incumbent Gov. Martin O’Malley secured passage of laws extending marriage rights to same-sex couples and in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants that voters approved in 2012. The lieutenant governor further noted O’Malley signed a gun control bill into law less than six months after Adam Lanza killed 26 students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Maryland last May also repealed the death penalty.

“We live in a much more just society today than we did eight years ago,” said Brown.

“Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory moderated the hour-long debate that NBC4, the University of Maryland and Bowie State University sponsored. The candidates answered questions from NBC4 reporters Chris Gordon and Chris Lawrence and Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post.

State Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) did not discuss marriage rights for same-sex couples. She did reiterate her plan to legalize marijuana in order to fund universal preschool in the state.

“Our marijuana prohibition laws have been a failure; they have been enforced with racial bias,” said Mizeur.

Brown said he supports a bill that O’Malley signed last month that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Both the lieutenant governor and Gansler said they do not currently support the drug’s legalization.

“There’s no rush,” said Gansler.

Neither candidate discussed a transgender rights bill that received final approval in the Maryland House of Delegates in March, even though they all support it. Brown and Mizeur earlier this year testified for the measure before various legislative committees.

Mizeur’s running mate, Rev. Delman Coates, told the Washington Blade after the debate that it was “surprising” the trans rights bill was not discussed.

“We were prepared for this issue to be addressed,” he said. “We’re delighted that Heather was able to work in Annapolis in this legislative session to pass this legislation.”

State Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) also noted the lack of discussion on the trans rights measure during the debate. She told the Blade afterwards that marriage rights for same-sex couples “should have been mentioned.”

“It was an important initiative of the last administration,” said McIntosh. “I’m pleased to say that everyone whose running for governor had a role in that.”

She credited Brown with helping build support for the same-sex marriage law among black Marylanders. McIntosh also dismissed Gansler’s suggestion earlier this year that Equality Maryland “traded” its endorsement of the lieutenant governor for his support of the trans rights bill.

“They realize the important role that Anthony Brown played in the passage of both bills — same-sex marriage and transgender,” she told the Blade. “And they also know his overall record on equality and civil rights. There is no question Equality Maryland made the right choice.”

A St. Mary’s College poll conducted between April 10-13 found Brown ahead of Gansler by a 27-11 percent margin. Slightly less than 8 percent of respondents backed Mizeur, while 54 percent of them said they remain undecided.

The three candidates are scheduled to debate each other two more times before the June 24 primary. Bruce DePuyt of News Channel 8 is scheduled to moderate a debate between Brown and Gansler’s running mates — Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and state Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s County) — and Coates in the coming weeks.

Mizeur could potentially become the country’s first openly LGBT governor if Maryland voters elect her to succeed O’Malley in November. Brown would become the state’s first African American governor if he wins the general election.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • What is Bowser afraid of? DC voters?

    Good Democratic candidates understand that fully discussing the issues of the day and confronting one’s opponents in debates or talk-show venues is part and parcel of what being a Democrat is all about. Participating in free and open debates/ discussion forums — early and often — demonstrates a fundamental respect for voters’ decision-making and for our electoral process.
    So how come DC’s ‘Democratic’ candidate for mayor, Muriel Bowser, is afraid to face David Catania? It has been over a month now, and Bowser is still hiding from DC’s voters and David Catania.
    The people of DC have been subjected to a lot of corruption and ethical cloud in recent years. Don’t DC voters deserve the respect of frequent and open debates or face-to-face discussions from those seeking DC’s highest office — just as Maryland voters do of their gubernatorial candidates?
    Why won’t Muriel Bowser accept Kojo’s invitation to discuss DC’s issues with David Catania face to face on Kojos’ program? Or anywhere? What is Bowser so afraid of?
    –Brians Ions

  • @Brians Ions- I am sure that Muriel Bowser has nothing to fear from David Catania in a debate.

    But what you fail to mention or realize is that the debates in the Maryland Governor’s race – both the Democratic and Republican primaries – are beginning now- less than six weeks before the election.

    Bowser will debate Catania when he actually becomes an official candidate and that won’t be until September 8th. Catania made that decision when he decided to run as an Independent. He will have to file petitions to get on the ballot and then the BOE will certify him and any others who file as candidates.

    At that time I am sure there will be a series of debates among all the candidates running for Mayor and that will be the appropriate time for them when people are focused on the November 4th election. In the meantime I am sure both Bowser and Catania will be making the rounds of community meetings and knocking on doors to introduce themselves and their ideas to the voters.

  • …that will be the appropriate time for them when people are focused on the November 4th election. -Peter
    Really, Peter???
    You know, that is just the kind of patronizing attitude to voters, we’d expect from Bowser’s stealthy-on-the-issues campaign. We saw the same kind of arrogance with Bowser’s sponsor to politics, Adrian Fenty.
    Everyone knows there is not a thing in the world stopping Muriel Bowser from debating David Catania, face-to-face, RIGHT NOW.
    Bowser obviously doesn’t care about DC voters’ desire to have many debates and discussions on the issues — the sooner, the better.
    The truth is, Peter, you are having to make lame excuses for a candidate who is an empty suit, with a skimpy public record, and who obviously is not ready to debate and discuss the city’s issues … let alone be mayor of our city.

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