Maryland Senate hearing on marriage equality bill draws hundreds


ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Over the course of four hours on Tuesday, opponents and supporters of same-sex marriage delivered compelling testimony before a Maryland Senate committee in hopes of swaying lawmakers on a landmark bill.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley testifies before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee
Tuesday in favor of the Civil Marriage Protection Act.
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.)

The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony on the Civil Marriage Protection Act throughout the afternoon on the last day of January, as lawmakers, experts, clergy and regular citizens from both sides of the issue shared their feelings on the bill at two minutes a piece.

The first witness to testify in favor of the bill was Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has made the bill part of his 2012 legislative agenda. O’Malley, who had at one time hesitated to support extending full marriage rights to gay couples, has become a proponent of the legislation.

“As you know we already recognize civil marriages that come from other states,” Gov. O’Malley said during his brief testimony, “the civil marriage equality bill draws upon the lessons that we have learned from these other states.”

“This bill balances an individual’s civil marriage rights with the important protections of religious freedoms for all,” O’Malley continued. “And because it protects both of these inalienable rights, it is supported by a broad coalition of Marylanders, which includes clergy, community leaders, faith-based organizations, civil rights groups and those who hold the most important title of all in our democracy, and that title is citizen.”

O’Malley was followed by gay Sen. Richard Madaleno — who spoke about his long relationship with his partner and status as a parent — as well as Democratic Sens. Jamie Raskin and Robert Garagiola and Republican Sen. Allan Kittleman, as well as Attorney General Douglas Gansler, all of whom urged passage of the bill.

Also testifying in favor of the bill was Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

“I believe that all couples regardless of their sexual orientation, want their children protected under the law,” Rawlings-Blake testified. “Please don’t be mistaken, this bill is about more than those rights, it’s also about civil rights and about equality under the law.”

Both sides were given two hours each to present their witnesses in four parts — the first and third hours in support of the law, and the second and fourth in opposition.

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