Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley announced at a press conference on Friday that passing same-sex marriage legislation will be a priority in the 2012 legislative session.
O’Malley made the announcement flanked by lawmakers and a broad coalition of Maryland equality advocates including the Human Rights Campaign and the ACLU.
Echoing those comments, Governor Martin O’Malley also released the following statement:
“Marylanders of all walks of life want their children to live in a loving, stable, committed home — protected under the law. As a free and diverse people of many faiths, we choose to be governed under the law by certain fundamental principles or beliefs, among them âequal protection of the law for every individual and the “free exercise” of religion without government intervention. Other states have found a way to protect both these rights. So should Maryland. The legislation we plan to introduce in the 2012 legislative session will protect religious freedom and equality of marital rights under the law.”
Lt Governor Brown also released a statement saying:
“All Marylanders deserve to be treated equally under the law, and I look forward to joining Governor O’Malley in working with the General Assembly to pass a Marriage Equality bill that will provide the same opportunity for all who wish to marry while fully protecting religious freedoms and views. Every member of our community should enjoy the same freedoms and share the same responsibilities.”
Governor O’Malley’s emphasis on religious freedom and his mention of the success of marriage equality in other states is a clear reference to New York’s same-sex marriage win and how Gov. Andrew Cuomo was able to rally not only Democrats into supporting New York’s newly minted same-sex marriage law but also several Republicans. As such, the importance of the language crafted in the New York bill is highlighted as it seems to be providing a model for other states and, crucially, serving as an example of how same-sex marriage legislation can find bipartisan support and satisfy the worries of religious conservatives who claim their autonomy must be shored up.
O’Malley’s press conference also signals a change in leadership style on this issue. In the previous legislative session O’Malley is said to have done a lot of background work to pass a marriage equality bill but he didn’t really take the lead. While this more gentle approach meant the Senate was able to pass a marriage equality bill, Maryland’s lower chamber got cold feet and sent the legislation back to committee. As such, an open affirmation of support from the governor is what equality advocates were hoping for and indeed what they got.
Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Jeff Belmonte.