January 19, 2015 at 8:07 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
O’Malley ‘very seriously considering’ 2016 presidential bid
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Outgoing Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in his office on Jan. 16, 2015. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Outgoing Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Friday told the Washington Blade that he continues to seriously consider a run for president in 2016.

“It’s still something I’m very seriously considering,” he said.

O’Malley spoke to the Blade five days before Republican Larry Hogan will succeed him as governor.

Memorabilia from O’Malley’s time in the State House and boxes were stacked throughout his office — and he joked before sitting down with the Blade that he had just cleaned out a bookshelf near his desk. Two large moving vans were also parked outside the Governor’s Mansion.

The Baltimore Sun reported that O’Malley and his wife, Baltimore City District Court Judge Katie Curran O’Malley, last month purchased a home in the Homeland neighborhood of Baltimore for $549,000. The soon-to-be-former first lady’s parents live nearby.

“We’re psyched to get home to Baltimore,” said O’Malley, who was mayor of Charm City from 1999 until Maryland voters elected him governor in November 2006. “Once you’ve been mayor of a big city she becomes part of you. I’m excited about moving back and it’s in a neighborhood that Katie’s always wanted to live in.”

O’Malley upon leaving office will become a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School where he will teach government, business and urban issues. The Democrat told the Blade that he will also join the lecture circuit and “do what I need to do as a responsible husband and father to secure my family for the road ahead and also the distinct possibility of making that colossal offer.”

“There’s only so many days in the year, especially when you’re a candidate of relatively unknown with very little name recognition,” said O’Malley. “You have to go out there, get in a van, go from county to county. I’ve done that before on behalf of other candidates and with other candidates who’ve started at 1 or 2 percent name recognition. It takes a lot of work.”

O’Malley touts support of LGBT rights

O’Malley, 52, has garnered praise from his fellow Democrats for championing LGBT rights and other progressive issues during his two terms in office.

One of his first acts after becoming governor in 2007 was to issue an executive order banning employment discrimination against transgender state employees.

O’Malley in 2002 signed Maryland’s first trans rights ordinance when he was mayor of Baltimore. A state law banning discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation based on gender identity and expression took effect in October.

“It’s long overdue,” O’Malley told the Blade in May before signing the trans rights measure into law. “This is a good bill and it’s about time we prohibit discrimination against transgendered individuals in Maryland.”

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Gov. Martin O’Malley in May 2014 signed his state’s transgender rights bill into law. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

O’Malley late last month commuted the sentences of Maryland’s remaining death row inmates to life in prison after lawmakers repealed the state’s capital punishment law. He also championed expanded gambling and in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants that voters upheld in 2012.

Advisers ‘convinced me’ to back civil unions

O’Malley during the interview disputed reports that he said the Maryland Court of Appeals should not interfere with the “sacraments” after it dismissed a same-sex marriage lawsuit in 2007.

The outgoing governor said he told Richard Sher of the Baltimore television station WMAR in 2004 that he supports “equal civil marriage” in response to a question about then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s decision to marry gays and lesbians in his city.

“We were getting ready to run for governor that year against an incumbent Republican,” O’Malley told the Blade. “My lawyer, political people went nuts including some of my closest gay friends who helped me campaign through politics and said you’re going to blow it all if you’re out ahead of this curve. There’s no way you can be for this without it becoming a huge distraction in the governor’s race and you can’t say civil marriage. There’s gay marriage and there’s civil unions.”

“You’re always wondering how far you can push, how fast, with some of these things,” he added. “Well-intended people around me convinced me — it’s ultimately my responsibility, but convinced me that civil unions was as far as I might be able to advance that bar.”

Then-Attorney General Doug Gansler in 2008 became the first statewide official in Maryland to publicly back marriage rights for same-sex couples when he testified before a state Senate committee.

The Maryland House of Delegates in 2011 killed a bill that would have allowed gays and lesbians to exchange vows in the state. O’Malley later that year announced he would include the issue in his 2012 legislative package.

O’Malley faced steep opposition to his support of marriage rights for same-sex couples, including what he described as a “cease and desist” letter from Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien before he announced his intent to push the issue in the General Assembly.

The outgoing governor during the subsequent debate frequently wore a black and white pin with the word “dignity” inscribed on it. Many same-sex marriage advocates were expressing the same sentiment when members of the House of Delegates in 2012 approved the measure.

“That was a very cool event,” O’Malley told the Blade. “I will always remember that. It will be one of the many treasured memories I walk out of this office with.”

O’Malley on March 1, 2012, signed the same-sex marriage bill into law.

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Then-Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo with Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley outside Northwood Elementary School in Baltimore on Nov. 6, 2012. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

He was among the many high-profile figures who helped raise money for the campaign in support of the same-sex marriage law ahead of a November 2012 referendum. The outgoing governor joined state Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other officials on stage at a Baltimore restaurant hours after the polls closed on Nov. 6, 2012, to announce voters upheld the statute.

“I have rarely seen issues move as quickly forward in the public consciousness than the issue of marriage equality moved,” O’Malley told the Blade. “It’s part of a pretty rapid generational change in perspective and mindset that you see played out on a number of different issues.”

O’Malley backtracks from criticism of Brown

O’Malley spoke with the Blade slightly more than two months after outgoing Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown’s loss to Republican Gov.-elect Larry Hogan sent shockwaves across Maryland’s political establishment.

The outgoing governor said he has “had a couple of meetings” with Hogan since his election.

“I think he’s been pleased with the professionalism and the competence with which this administration’s treated his staff in transition,” O’Malley told the Blade. “I hope for our state’s sake he’s able to make wise and good decisions that serve our common good. He and I have some differences on policy matters and that’s what an election’s about. I wish him well, he and his family.”

O’Malley during the interview backtracked from comments he made to Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney that suggested Brown lost to Hogan because his campaign “made a tactical decision not to defend” or “talk about” the administration’s record.

“In any campaign there’s lots of people giving you advice and it’s up to the candidate to sort through that advice,” said O’Malley. “I have no doubt that Anthony [Brown] made decisions based on what he thought was best for the success of the state and his ability to move our state forward by winning the governor’s office. He was such a good lieutenant governor, effective on so many fronts.”

O’Malley last November told the Blade during Equality Maryland’s annual brunch that “it’s very hard…not to be disappointed” by the election results. He dismissed claims at the time that Brown lost to Hogan because Maryland voters did not know enough about him going into Election Day.

“I don’t really want to be in a position of Monday morning second-guessing his tactical decisions,” said O’Malley last week.

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

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