If you’ve followed the battle for marriage equality in Washington DC, you know it didn’t happen overnight. In fact, the push to allow DC gay couples to marry has been fought for over a decade, but it was fought smart, and slow, until finally, it became the law of the land.
Now, that same tenacity may be paying off in Maryland.
Though the State House’s Democratic majorities have been blocked by Senate President Thomas Miller Jr., who has steadfastly opposed gay marriage, that may no longer be the case. Miller has given his blessing to a committee realignment that all but ensures that a gay-marriage measure will make it to the Senate floor during this year’s session, and then onto the desk of Governor O’Malley, who pledged last year to sign it.
Now, hard to believe, but apparently same-sex marriage, already exists in Maryland since Attorney General Douglas Gansler said the state must recognize out-of-state gay unions. These marriages were dubbed the “MARC marriages” because gay and lesbian couples take a train to DC, get married, and the return to Maryland with all the state rights and privileges afforded a married straight couple. So, it’s just a little step more until Maryland begins performing it’s own same-sex marriages.
Still, the fight is hardly won just yet. Some moderate Democrats, and not-so-moderate Republicans, oppose equality, and this week Senator Allan Kittleman, a Republican of course, announced plans to introduce a bill that would create civil unions for gay and straight couples. Not marriage, mind you, but marriage lite, separate but equal, not marriage, but so close.
Kittleman hopes to do away with civil marriage altogether, making it a purely religious institution, thereby allowing churches to decide who has the right to marry, and not the state. But that leaves even straight couples “high and dry vis-a-vis the federal government,” which wouldn’t extend marriage benefits to anyone who was civilly untied.
So, marriage becomes a right of the church to perform, and everyone else who chooses not to marry in a church, or is turned away by a church, gets a civil union, without federal rights and privileges.
Well, now, that doesn’t sound so equal.
But at least lawmakers in Maryland, on both sides of the issue, are having the discussion, and offering points of view to add to the discourse. That kind of conversation should be happening in every state house in the country. It should be talked about, and debated, and voted on as a matter of law, and equality not a matter of faith or religion.
Let’s hope Maryland can show the rest of America how it’s done.