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George Michael: Hardball in Annapolis

May 17, 2012

Politics, some say, is the art of compromise, with all of its “give and take.” We are told that you can’t always get the whole loaf but must learn how to get at least half a loaf. Local pundits often criticize our county legislators for being too doctrinaire and too ideological, all the while scolding them for not “bringing home the bacon.” 

Does this apply in all cases? Is this how the O’Malley administration operated during the special session in Annapolis this week? Was there any “give and take” with the governor’s plan? Or just the “you give and we take” option?  O’Malley knows how to play hardball. Compromise in our state seems to go in only one direction.

O’Malley’s tactics were clearly evident earlier this year on the gay marriage issue. Whatever you believe about civil marriages for gays and lesbians, all should be aware of the pressure used by our state leaders to get the so-called Civil Marriage Protection Act passed this year in Annapolis. The heavy-handedness, threats and actions bordering on bribery should not be overlooked. 

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The marriage issue passed in March by a vote of 72-67 in the House of Delegates and by a 25-22 vote in the Senate. Just two votes switching in the Senate or three in the House would have defeated the measure. Not much of a margin, especially in a state so heavily Democratic. The tactics used to gain the last couple of critical votes suggest the bill had little to offer on its merits. Someone had an agenda and any means necessary to pass it were acceptable.

Talk among a number of delegates was that deals — including a million dollars for special projects back home — were offered to fence-sitting legislators. Some even had their cell phone numbers given out indiscriminately to groups supporting the gay marriage bill in order to ensure they would receive a lot of angry calls, bypassing their office staff. You can argue that this goes on all the time for important votes but, in this case, the tactics of the left were over the top.

Kudos and a big “shout out” go to our local delegation for voting against the measure. Del. Andy Serafini admitted that no one harassed him or called to find out his vote. Probably, the bill’s supporters knew where Serafini stood on the matter and knew it was not worth their efforts to try to dissuade him. 

A special note of appreciation from local conservatives is owed to Del. John Donoghue of Hagerstown, a Democrat who would have been expected to go along with the state leadership. You can bet the pressure that Donoghue faced was intense. Standing by his convictions was a matter of principle and courage. 

Of course, the other Republicans in our county delegation, LeRoy Myers, Neil Parrott, and Sens. Chris Shank and George Edwards, all voted not to grant marriage to gays and lesbians. 

As they did last year, liberals tried to make this a civil rights issue. But as indicated by the strong opposition of the majority of African-American delegates in Maryland, this issue was about the family and the foundations of our social fabric, not civil rights. 

Marriage is something that has been defined for centuries as a union between a man and a woman. Once that standard is changed, then anything goes in terms of marriage. One should probably not think too long about all the possible options. 

Hopefully, the voters of Maryland will get a chance to express their preferences on the matter. It appears that the measure will appear on the ballot in November. It would be very significant, even a cause for celebration, if the shameful tactics by our governor and key members of the Democratic Party were all for naught. Some people on the fence about the issue of extending the institution of marriage to gays should at least speak up against the very distasteful actions of our leaders and say there must be a better way to make your points or support your beliefs.

George Michael, who lives in Williamsport, is a former principal of Grace Academy. His email address is gfmichael46@gmail.com.

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