Same-sex marriage bill moves closer to passing Senate

By Barbara Pash
Barbara@MarylandReporter.com

After adopting amendments further removing religious organizations from the issue, the Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill allowing  same-sex marriage in Maryland on Wednesday with a vote of 25 to 22.

The controversial bill could be coming up before the Senate for final approval as soon as today, said Senate President Mike Miller.

The debate by the full Senate lasted roughly 2 ½ hours, and was tempered by amendments moved, withdrawn, and called out of line.

The bill changes the state’s definition of what constitutes a legal marriage from a man and a woman to two individuals who would not otherwise be prohibited from marrying. The bill does not require officials of religious institutions to solemnize same-sex marriages if they are contrary to their religious beliefs.

As the bill has gone through the process leading to the vote, amendments have been added to it that distance same-sex marriages from the religious interpretation of marriage.

Taking religion out

One amendment literally removed religion from the bill, which started its legislative life as the “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act.” Sen. C. Anthony Muse,  a  Prince George’s County Democrat and church pastor, removed “Religious Freedom” from the title, saying the edit more clearly identifies the bill’s intent.
“The purpose of the bill is to recognize same-sex marriage,”  said Muse.

Sen. Edward Reilly, an Anne Arundel County Republican, added an amendment allowing fraternal benefit societies to reject members of same-sex married couples, and to deny them members’ insurance benefits.

“We want to protect insurance [providers] from [law] suits because of religious beliefs,”  said Reilly, He said this the amendment was modeled after a similar provision in Vermont, which made same-sex marriage legal in 2009. For example, he said, the Catholic fraternal society Knights of Columbus offers members insurance benefits.

Muse added a second amendment that religious programs, counseling, educational courses, summer camps and retreats cannot be required to promote same-sex marriages.  The amendment was adopted by voice vote.
The three amendments added in the Judicial Proceedings Committee were unanimously added to the bill by the full Senate on Wednesday. They include:

  • Allowing religious entities to refuse to provide services, accommodations, facilities and goods for same-sex marriage without being liable to civil lawsuits.
  • Allowing religious organizations, associations or societies and nonprofits operated or supervised by religious organizations to refuse to provide services, facilities and goods for same-sex marriages if it violates religious beliefs.
  • Identifying the degrees of familial relationships to which the bill applies.

Defeated amendments

Several other amendments proposed from the floor on Wednesday — many dealing with social services allowed for same-sex married couples — were defeated or withdrawn by their sponsors. Sen. Douglas Peters, a Prince George’s County Democrat, introduced an amendment that would exempt adoption agencies and foster care programs from offering their services if same-sex marriage violates their religious beliefs.

Sen. Christopher Shank,  R-Washington County, backed the amendment, noting that after Massachusetts passed its same-sex marriage law in 2004, the Catholic Church in Boston stopped offering adoptions. “There should be no unintended consequences”  to the bill, Shank said.

Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, a co-sponsor and the floor leader for the bill, argued that  the amendment was not relevant. By Maryland law, even single parents can adopt.

“That has been in effect for 10 years and there have been no complaints,” said Raskin. He said that the church in Boston cooperated with Massachussetts law, to the point of arranging a dozen or so adoptions,  until a story appeared in the Boston Globe and caused a controversy within the Catholic Church.

Sen. Robert Zirkin, D-Baltimore County,  called the amendment “bizarre.” Current law prohibits adoption agencies from discriminating on the basis of several factors,  including sexual orientation.

“This amendment says the agency can opt out,”  he said. “It is completely contradictory”  to the current family law.
The amendment failed with only 17 senators in favor.

Teaching about same-sex marriage

Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel County, offered an amendment exempting public school teachers from teaching about same-sex marriage in elementary school, based on their religious beliefs.

Raskin replied that the amendment was a “political statement”, not an “education statement,”  because it starts mandating what can be taught in schools.

Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles County, said that schools in his district are trying to get a handle on bullying and cyber-bullying.

“A lot of that deals with sexual orientation,  and  the schools are looking for ways to combat it,” he said. ”The amendment would not allow the schools to deal” with this issue.

The amendment failed in a 16 to 31 vote.

Miller offered strong caution on the adoption and education amendments.
“We are going way too far with these. They are well  intended but we’re going down a slippery slope,” he said.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

len@marylandreporter.com

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.

5 Comments

  1. Elihu Eli El

    SHARE (Everyone needs to know this): States Matrimony Act of 2011

    Hello Friends, Family, and Neighbors,

    Holy Matrimony equals Marriage
    matrimony does not equal Marriage
    The state can not determine Holy Matrimony…only The Church can do that..There is a separation between Church and State; or did you forget. If it was about protecting the fundamental right of two same-sex persons to wed, then lawmakers would have simply changed the word from “marriage” to “matrimony”. No…Federal lobbyists who are also Maryland State Delegates are trying to make a name for themselves by showing that they are powerful enough to beat religious institutions, redefine morality, and create a new set of their lobbyists formed code of ethics. It’s about a political power stronghold by federal lobbyist to control States Rights over acting in The People’s best interests.

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    Federal lobbyist brandishing political might over us
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    Warm Regards,
    Eli

  2. Anonymous

    The vote tally from the Sun
    http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/local/politics/2011/02/samesex_marriage_bill_passes_f.html

    Vote tally
    For
    Sen. James Brochin, Baltimore County Democrat
    Sen. Joan Carter Conway, Baltimore Democrat
    Sen. Bill Ferguson, Baltimore Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Jennie Forehand, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Brian Frosh, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Rob Garagiola, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Lisa Gladden, Baltimore Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Verna Jones, Baltimore Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, Baltimore and Howard counties Democrat
    Sen. Delores Kelley, Baltimore County Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Nancy King, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, Howard County Republican
    Sen. Katherine Klausmeier, Baltimore County Democrat
    Sen. Richard Madaleno, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Roger Manno, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, Baltimore Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Karen Montgomery, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Paul Pinsky, Prince George’s County Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, Baltimore Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Victor Ramirez, Prince George’s County Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Jamie Raskin, Montgomery County Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. James Robey, Howard County Democrat
    Sen. James Rosapepe, Prince George’s County Democrat
    Sen. Ronald Young, Frederick County Democrat (sponsor)
    Sen. Bobby Zirkin, Baltimore County Democrat (sponsor)

    Against
    Sen. John Astle, Anne Arundel County Democrat
    Sen. Joanne Benson, Prince George’s County Democrat
    Sen. David Brinkley, Carroll and Frederick counties Republican
    Sen. Richard Colburn, Eastern Shore Republican
    Sen. Ulysses Currie, Prince George’s County Democrat
    Sen. James DeGrange, Anne Arundel County Democrat
    Sen. Roy Dyson, Southern Maryland Democrat
    Sen. George Edwards, Western Maryland Republican
    Sen. Joseph Getty, Baltimore and Carroll counties Republican
    Sen. Barry Glassman, Harford County Republican
    Sen. Nancy Jacobs, Harford and Cecil counties Republican
    Sen. J.B. Jennings, Baltimore and Harford counties Republican
    Sen. James Mathias, Eastern Shore Democrat
    Sen. Thomas Middleton, Charles County Democrat
    Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller, Prince George’s and Calvert counties Democrat
    Sen. C. Anthony Muse, Prince George’s County Democrat
    Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, Prince George’s County Democrat
    Sen. E.J. Pipkin, Eastern Shore Republican
    Sen. Edward Reilly, Anne Arundel County Republican
    Sen. Christopher Shank, Washington County Republican
    Sen. Bryan Simonaire, Anne Arundel County Republican
    Sen. Norman Stone, Baltimore County Democrat

    • Richard Baldwin Cook

      Thanks for posting this. Suggests a referendum on same-sex marriage might not pass.

  3. Anonymous

    We got this comment from mfvinson

    “Your sidebar says how much allowing homosexual couples to marry will cost the state, but completely overlooks what it will gain. Even with the economy’s poor state, gay men and lesbians travel to Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire to marry, boosting otherwise sagging tourism.

    Additionally, there are fees the state will receive. For example, if my partner and I are allowed to marry, our first stop after getting the license is an attorney, to get our deed re-titled from “joint tenants with right of survivorship” to “tenants by the entirety.” I’m sure we’ll find lots of other things that need to be changed, for which the state will charge.

    Thanks for otherwise excellent reporting on this issue.”

    For the record, fiscal notes only recognize the economic impact on state and local government, costs and revenues. But the point is well taken.

  4. Richard Baldwin Cook

    Thanks for leading the way with this good coverage. Would be nice to list the senators who voted 25 – 22 in favor. Is this found elsewhere at MarylandReporter?

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