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Maryland delegates flip and flop over support for marriage equality bill

Maryland delegates flip and flop over support for marriage equality bill
Sam Arora

What the hell is in the water in Maryland?

Democratic Delegate Sam Arora announced Friday he is once again supporting Maryland’s marriage equality bill. Arora spent the last 24 hours backtracking on his support for the bill, even going so far as to delete a Jan. 25 “tweet” on his Twitter page where he announced his support.

Arora is, in fact, a co-sponsor of the bill, the Civil Marriage Protection Act.

Arora is one of three Democratic delegates who, after publicly announcing their support, have spent the week flipping back and forth on whether they’ll even vote to move the bill out of committee and onto the full House for a vote.

On Tuesday morning, Delegates Jill Carter (D-Baltimore) and Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George) delayed a critical vote on the bill in the Maryland House of Delegate’s Judiciary Committee.

At the last minute, Carter and Alston didn’t show up for the vote, and announced a few hours later that despite prior promises, they were going to refuse to vote yes on the bill until some of their other interests were advanced.

Jill Carter (left) and Tiffany Alston

Democrat leadership moved quickly to shore up the
holes, and as of Wednesday evening, both Carter and Alston were reportedly ready to vote yes.

Enter Arora (D-Montgomery), who on Thursday told the lead sponsor of the bill that he was planning to vote against it, setting off a firestorm of heavy criticism. Arora reportedly raised massive amounts of money from LGBT constituents.

Del. Kumar Barve (D-Montgomery County), said that Arora’s decision to vote against the bill was “a shock.”

“I don’t know what to think,” Barve told Metro Weekly this evening of Arora’s decision to vote against the marriage bill that he once co-sponsored, once it makes its way to the House floor, something Barve says Arora told him personally.

But the lobbying and pressure appears to have worked, and on Friday, Arora told supporters that he will indeed vote “yes” on sending the bill to both the floor and Gov. Martin O’Malley:

“While I personally believe that Maryland should extend civil rights to same-sex couples through civil unions, I have come to the conclusion that this issue has such impact on the people of Maryland that they should have a direct say. I will vote to send the bill to the floor because it deserves an up-or-down vote. On the floor, I will vote to send the bill to the governor so that Marylanders can ultimately decide this issue at the polls. I think that is appropriate,” Arora said.

But Alston is once again now backing out of her promised vote and saying she wants to pass civil unions instead.

After announcing on Wednesday that she was back on board and ready to vote for the marriage equality bill, Alston has again reversed course and said she is researching an amendment that would offer civil unions instead.

“I have what I believe to be a solution,” Alston told reporters. “I don’t know if it will garner any political will or favor.”

Supporters had been counting on the votes of Alston and to reach the 12 votes needed on the committee to send the bill to the House floor with a favorable recommendation.

The bill, already approved by the state Senate, was expected to easily pass the Democratic majority on the committee, but the recent developments have stalled the measure from advancing to the full House as quickly as previously expected.

The committee could vote on the bill as early as today, but even if it clears the committee, and passes in the full House, both sides in the same-sex marriage debate expect opponents to take advantage of a provision in Maryland law that allows citizens to petition just-passed laws onto the ballot if they collect enough signatures.

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