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Washington Co. delegates to oppose same-sex marriage bill

January 25, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — Some Democratic state lawmakers are trying again to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland.

The proposed bill — the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act — would change the state's Family Law, which currently reads: "Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this State."

The phrase "a man and a woman" would be replaced with "two individuals who are not otherwise prohibited from marrying."

The same bill died in separate House and Senate committees last year.

At a news conference Tuesday, supporters framed the issue as one of equality. Some compared it to the civil rights struggles of African-Americans.

Sen. Rob Garagiola, D-Montgomery, a sponsor, said opposite-sex married couples have more than 400 rights and benefits under Maryland law.

There have been piecemeal attempts to extend some benefits to same-sex couples, but it's time to provide full equality, he said.

Six states and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriage.

Maryland is one of three states that recognizes same-sex marriage from other states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Bill supporters cited a new Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies opinion poll of registered Maryland voters in which 51 percent of respondents favor letting same-sex couples marry, while 44 percent are opposed.

Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, R-Carroll/Howard, has said he plans to file a bill for civil unions, granting rights to same-sex couples outside of marriage.

Neither idea, however, will win much favor within the mostly Republican Washington County delegation.

Last year, Dels. LeRoy E. Myers Jr. and Andrew A. Serafini and then-Del. Christopher B. Shank were co-sponsors of an unsuccessful bill to amend the state constitution to allow only a marriage between one man and one woman.

Then-Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, was a co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill.

This year, Sen. Ronald N. Young, D-Frederick/Washington, who defeated Mooney in November, is a co-sponsor of the same-sex marriage bill.

"I think government should stay out of private lives, and everyone should have equal representation under law," Young said.

Two other freshmen in the delegation — Republicans Neil C. Parrott and Michael J. Hough — oppose the bill. They are members of the House Judiciary Committee, which would hear the bill.

"I'm going to do everything I can to stop same-sex marriage in Maryland," Parrott said.

He said that if the bill passes, opponents will bring the issue to referendum and voters will turn it down.

Myers also supports keeping marriage between a man and a woman. "It's my faith," he said. "It's what I believe in."

Myers said same-sex marriage might pass the House but not the Senate.

Del. John P. Donoghue, the delegation's only other Democrat, said he wouldn't vote for a same-sex marriage or civil union bill.

"We're here to do far more important work than wedge issues," he said.

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