Donoghue amendment delays vote on gay-marriage bill

March 08, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |
  • Donoghue

ANNAPOLIS — Rarely are Washington County Democratic Del. John P. Donoghue and county Republican Sen. Christopher B. Shank closely aligned on an issue.

It happened Tuesday, when an amendment Donoghue offered on the House floor temporarily halted debate on a same-sex marriage bill.

Donoghue asked that religious-based groups that provide adoption, foster care or social services be allowed to withhold services if it involves circumstances — such as same-sex marriage — that "would violate the entity's religious beliefs."

Then, he asked to table the issue for a day, giving the chairman of the committee that heard the bill time to read the amendment and react.

Shank argued for a similar exemption for social-service providers during Senate debate on the bill last month.

Shank and Donoghue, like most of the Washington County delegation, oppose same-sex marriage. Within the delegation, only Sen. Ronald N. Young, D-Frederick/Washington, who co-sponsored the Senate bill, supports it.

The Senate approved the same-sex marriage bill 25-21 last month.

A House committee narrowly passed it last week, setting the stage for floor debate this week.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, has said he'll sign a same-sex marriage bill into law.

Opponents have pledged to petition for a referendum, where they hope the proposal will be defeated.

When the bill reached the House floor Tuesday for the first time, Donoghue proposed his amendment.

Further debate and more amendments are expected today.

Donoghue said in an interview later in the day that he heard from Catholic Charities and other similar groups concerned about the effect of the bill on their services.

"I'm trying to do whatever I can to protect them if the bill should pass," he said.

Supporters are trying to round up enough House votes to pass the bill and avoid having it change from the Senate version, which could delay or kill it.

Donoghue said he hasn't heard Democratic leaders insist that there be no amendments. His amendment wasn't meant to kill the bill but to make it more acceptable if it passes, he said.

Donoghue, who is Catholic, said his faith has shaped his beliefs on this issue, but it's not the only reason he's against same-sex marriage.

"There's a very basic belief with a lot of people that the law is the law, and it should stay that way," he said.

Whichever way the General Assembly leans on same-sex marriage, it's a "major policy shift" and should go to voters in a referendum, just as abortion and slot-machine gambling did, Donoghue said.

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