February 23, 2012

Same-sex marriage up for final vote in Senate Thursday afternoon

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By Megan Poinski
Megan@MarylandReporter.com

After rejecting six amendments, a bill allowing same-sex marriage will be going to the full Senate for a final vote at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Thursday morning, senators had the opportunity to try to add amendments to the bill. Seven were proposed. One was withdrawn. The other six failed.

Senate chamber

The Senate chamber

The bill that will be considered by the full Senate is identical to the one that passed the House of Delegates last week.

Senate President Mike Miller said that the body is trying to consider the legislation and move past it, to other pressing issues that are before the Senate – namely getting together a balanced budget proposal.

“We are not trying to rush,” Miller said. “We are trying to move forward in an orderly fashion.”

Similar legislation passed the Senate last year with a vote of 25-21. Miller said he expects the votes to all be the same this year on the legislation, though he does anticipate more amendments to be proposed when the Senate reconvenes at 4 p.m. Proponents will resist any amendment to the bill so that it does not have to be sent back to the House of Delegates, where the vote was close.

Since the legislation was proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration, it is expected that it will get the governor’s signature if it passes the Senate. Opponents have promised to bring the issue to referendum.

Many of the amendments proposed on Thursday dealt with shielding young people from same-sex marriage. Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel, proposed an amendment that would allow parents to exempt their elementary school children from lessons that include or reference same-sex marriage.

To make his point, Simonaire read the picture book “King and King,” a story about a prince who decides to marry another prince, aloud to the Senate. The book, he said, had caused some problems when it was taught in Massachusetts. He stopped to show his colleagues the pictures, including one showing the two kings kissing.

Several of his colleagues called the book reading distasteful. Sen. Dolores Kelley, D-Baltimore County, said that as an educator for 43 years, she knows that the Senate cannot set curriculum for schools. According to the Maryland State Constitution, their duty is to fund the school system. She added that statistically, most marriages end in divorce. She hoped that the schools don’t teach divorce.

Besides, she said, the law already allows parents to exempt their children from objectionable material taught in school.

“This amendment doesn’t address any problems in the state of Maryland,” Kelley said.

Other amendments that were voted down included:

  • Continuing the acknowledgement of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in public schools.
  • Prohibiting minors from getting married to people of the same gender.
  • Exempting churches from recognizing same-sex marriages.
  • Allowing religiously affiliated organizations to ban same-sex married couples from living  “married housing.”
  • Changing the name of the bill from the “Civil Marriage Protection Act” to the “Marriage Redefinition Act.”

The amendment that was withdrawn would have made the effective date of the bill Oct. 1. The bill was initially written that way, but an amendment in the House moved the effective date to Jan. 1, 2013, after any potential referendum.