The push to authorize same-sex marriage in Maryland had already been a contentious issue at the State House, even before tomorrow’s hearing on the O’Malley administration bill and today’s big rally opposing it.
But right after the bill’s introduction last week, the O’Malleys, both husband and wife, managed to press even more hot buttons for same-sex marriage opponents. Judge Katie O’Malley, the first lady, blamed last year’s failure of the bill on “some cowards that prevented it from passing.” Gov. Martin O’Malley had earlier sent out a mass e-mail fundraising appeal for the cause, a tactic which Republicans called “unethical” if not illegal.
Judge O’Malley’s remarks at the National Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality in Baltimore on Thursday night were especially surprising, since she generally steers clear of controversy and taking political stands. As first lady, she works on topics like preventing bullying and domestic violence, encouraging reading, gardening and home-grown foods. Brian Witte of the Associated Press first reported her inflammatory remarks and their aftermath.
After the negative pushback, Judge O’Malley quickly apologized.
“I regret my recent choice of words at the Creating Change Conference last night,” she said in a statement Friday. “I let my feelings get the better of me. I deeply respect that there are strongly held and differing views on marriage equality in Maryland, but hope that our state’s elected officials will come together to fairly address this important issue for our families and children.”
Last Tuesday after a breakfast he hosted at the mansion for gay marriage advocates, Gov. Martin O’Malley used his campaign committee to send out a fundraising appeal for Marriage Equality, the coalition backing same-sex marriage.
“Today, I am writing to ask for your support of equal rights under the law in the context of civil marriage rights in Maryland,” O’Malley said in a personalized e-mail that went to thousands who have signed up to hear from the campaign, including legislators. The e-mail contains two links to the Marriage Equality page for electronic donations.
Republicans found the solicitation questionable because O’Malley and lawmakers are barred from raising money for themselves and their campaigns during the legislative session. (The contribute buttons on the O’Malley-Brown website are disabled.)
“Gov. O’Malley is blatantly disregarding the longstanding prohibition against raising money during the legislative session,” said state GOP Chairman Alex Mooney in a statement. “At best, the Governor’s scheme to raise money for an organization supporting a bill he is running through the General Assembly is unethical.”
“I have never seen a governor send out a notice regarding his legislative package and to simultaneously tell the legislators to donate to the very special interest group that benefits from that legislation,” said Del. Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil. “This is the kind of behavior that causes the public to lose faith in their elected public servants.”
O’Malley continues to raise money outside the state for the Democratic Governors Association, which he chairs. In November, the Sun’s Annie Linskey did a detailed story about how O’Malley was raising big bucks for the DGA from firms with major interests before his administration.