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The Sixth With Sense: Maryland Poised to Pass Marriage Equality Legislation

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By HVpolitics on February 22, 2011

Several decades from now, when Maryland schoolchildren study the history textbook downloaded on their state-issued e-readers, they might just find out that their home state was the sixth to legalize same-sex marriages during the unnecessarily drawn-out struggle for equal rights. Six of 50 ain’t too shabby, kids.

A marriage equality bill is currently headed to the floor of the Maryland Senate, and by all indications it has the votes to pass. The bill would, in effect, legalize marriage between same-sex couples by removing the law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The bill passed the Judicial Proceedings committee last week with a 7 to 4 vote, and now it is headed to the Senate floor for debate. Debate on the bill — sure to be heated, contentious and full of fear-mongering and specious reasoning from the opposition — will begin in the chamber this week before the bill is voted on. The leadership of both parties acknowledged that it was likely to pass.

“I think they’re going to pull it out,” conceded Senate Minority Leader Nancy C. Jacobs (R-Harford), one of the four committee members who opposed the bill, according to the Washington Post.

State Senator Robert Garagiola, pictured here, introduced the bill and stressed that no religious institution would be required to recognize the marriages if it violated their beliefs. According to his statement:

“As amended, the bill also provides that a religious organization, association or society, or any nonprofit operated by one, may not be required to provide services accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to an individual if the request is related to the solemnization of a marriage or celebration of marriage that is in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs.”

Garagiola added the provision to the bill to make it more palatable to the conservative wing of the legislature and give the legislation a better chance of passing.

If the bill passes the Senate it would move on to the House of Delegates, which is traditionally more liberal on social issues than the Senate. There is still no comment from the Governor Martin O’Malley about whether or not he would sign the bill, but there’s been no indication that the Democrat would be in opposition to it.

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. It is also recognized but not performed in three other states — New York, Rhode Island and Maryland. Ten other states currently allow domestic partnerships or civil unions that grant rights similar to marriage. It’s all right here in this fabulously decorated chart:

Since politicians like to pay lip service to “listening to the will of the people,” it’s noteworthy that polls suggest a majority of Maryland residents support such a bill — in fact, 51 percent of voters say they would favor a law in Maryland allowing same-sex couples to marry, while 44 percent opposed such a law and 5 percent gave no response, according to the poll by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies.

(Of course, there is also a poll out there showing 54 percent of Maryland voters support the “traditional definition” of marriage, while only 37 percent support same-sex marriage. This poll, it should be noted, was commissioned by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and conducted by Dr. Gary Lawrence, a Mormon bishop who conducted similar research in California for the “Yes On 8” campaign. It might also be noted that his son, Matthew, is out, proud and ashamed of his father’s work.)

The legislation, and the issue of marriage equality in Maryland, is not without its vocal critics. There’s an organization called Protect Marriage Maryland, which is run by a man named Bob Nelson. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because earlier this month we took Nelson to task for the most horrifically baseless and juvenile argument ever advanced in this arena: In this video, Nelson with a straight face tried to compare marriage equality to counterfeit currency. It’d almost be funny if it weren’t so sad.

We debunked his proud ignorance and borderline lunacy then, and we shan’t do it again. But it’s this sort of argument that illustrates the absurdity of the crusade against gay marriage. These arguments that only work if you completely strip away any humanity or counter-reasoning. The underlying mentality of people like Nelson and organizations like NOM is that gay people shouldn’t be afforded the same human rights as them. Just like Nelson believes that same-sex marriages are counterfeit, he also presumably believes that the lives of same-sex couples themselves are just as counterfeit.

Men like this don’t see a loving couple trying to find happiness with one another while doing no harm to others; he only sees an affront to his morality and religion. This sort of absurd mentality can only come from people that have never known gay people as friends, neighbors and humans. He only knows abstract ideas handed down from evangelical preachers as something to hate.

But the Nelsons and NOMs of the world will be forever be on the wrong side of history when those kids are studying from their e-readers. And by then maybe the hate we see now will be a relic of the past.

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