Joint vote advances Maryland same-sex marriage bill

February 14, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |
  • Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, reads aloud one of his amendments on Tuesday during a joint committee meeting on a same-sex marriage bill.
Photo by Andrew Schotz

ANNAPOLIS — The newest attempt to legalize marriage in Maryland for gay couples advanced a step on Tuesday — Valentine’s Day — as two committees voted to send a bill to the full House of Delegates.

The Judiciary Committee and the Health and Government Operations Committees jointly voted 25-18 in favor of the bill. Del. Sam Arora, D-Montgomery, passed when his name was called and didn’t vote.

It’s unclear if there will be enough support to pass the bill in the House, where a similar proposal died last year without a vote.

A same-sex marriage bill passed the Senate last year 25-21.

Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, and Del. Michael J. Hough, R-Frederick/Washington, tried to amend the bill on Tuesday, but their proposals were defeated.

Parrott and Hough voted against the bill.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, a member of the Health and Government Operations Committee, also voted against the bill.

An amendment to change the bill from marriage to civil unions failed. Hough and Donoghue voted yes. Parrott voted no.

Opponents offered civil unions as a way to extend same-sex couples the same rights without changing the definition of marriage, but Del. Bonnie L. Cullison, D-Montgomery, said that still fell short of equality.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, has actively lobbied this year for a same-sex marriage bill to pass, after merely pledging last year to sign the bill if it were approved.

He said this year’s bill has more religious protections written into it.

Before casting his vote, Del. Shawn Z. Tarrant, D-Baltimore city, said he had been skeptical about the bill, but he considered it “ludicrous” that people want protections from catering to same-sex couples, so he was voting yes.

One of Parrott’s proposed amendments prohibited “a public-school teacher from being required to teach materials relating to sex education or nontraditional families.”

The other would have required families to give permission before their children participate in lessons on sex education or nontraditional families.

Hough’s amendment would have eliminated the possibility of a minor marrying someone of the same gender.

All three amendments failed.

One of the most spirited debates was over an amendment — which also failed — to push the effective date of the bill from Oct. 1, 2012, to Jan. 1, 2013.

Delegates who supported the amendment said it would allow for a referendum on same-sex marriage in the November general election, before a law goes into effect.

However, those opposed to the amendment pointed out that once there’s enough valid signatures to grant a referendum — a ruling made in the summer — a stay is placed on the law and it doesn’t take effect, pending the outcome of the public vote.

Parrott said that assurance isn’t enough. If petitioners don’t get state officials’ approval for their signatures for a referendum, they’ll have to hope that a judge grants a stay as they wage a court battle, he said.

Hough, when casting his vote against the bill, railed against this year’s process, in which two committees jointly considered the bill, which he called a “radical” change.

If only the Judiciary Committee had voted on the bill, as it did last year, the bill would have been killed, he said.

Indeed, Judiciary members voted 11-10 against the bill this year. The Health and Government Operations vote was 15-7 in favor.

A Senate committee heard this year’s bill first, but hasn’t voted yet.

Of the other five members of the Washington County delegation, only Sen. Ronald N. Young, D-Frederick, is in favor of a same-sex marriage bill.

Dels. Andrew A. Serafini and LeRoy E. Myers Jr. and Sens. Christopher B. Shank and George C. Edwards, all Republicans, are opposed.

How they voted

Same-sex marriage bill
Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington — No
Del. Michael J. Hough, R-Frederick/Washington — No
Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington — No

Civil unions amendment
Parrott — No
Hough — Yes
Donoghue — Yes

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