ANNAPOLIS (Jan. 25, 2008) At a press conference today, Maryland legislators announced the introduction of The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act (HB 351), a bill which would provide equal access to civil marriage for same-sex couples while ensuring that religious institutions continue to have the right to perform and recognize only the marriages of their choosing.
Senators Richard S. Madaleno, Jr. (D) and Jamin B. (Jamie) Raskin (D), both of Mongomery County are the lead sponsors of the bill. According to the Washington Blade, Madaleno is openly gay.
Senator Gwendolyn Britt was the primary advocate for marriage equality legislation in Maryland. Following her sudden death earlier this month, Senators Madaleno and Raskin have led efforts to pass this legislation in the Senate. The bill has 42 other co-sponsors.
The legislation follows a divided 4-3 court ruling last year that permitted the state to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples under the state constitution.
The Human Rights Campaign and Equality Maryland are two gay rights organizations who have been working to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. According to a spokesman for the organizations, they have hired two lobbyists to help move the bill forward.
"Right now, loving and committed same-sex couples in Maryland and their families are denied the more than 1,000 basic legal rights that a marriage license provides," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese
in a statement. "This legislation would remedy this unequal treatment and ensure that all Maryland families receive, under Maryland law, the equal rights they deserve."
Delegate Don Dwyer, Jr. (R-Anne Arundel) announced today that he plans to introduce a Constitutional Marriage Amendment to counter the homosexual proposal. Dwyer is a long-time opponent of same-sex marriage in Maryland.
Dwyer is also carrying a petition to see that his Marriage Amendment is voted before the full House of Delegates. A petition is a
parliamentary procedure to bring the amendment out of committee to the floor for a full vote. Otherwise, a bill could be held up in committee and never reach the floor.
Dwyer is also suggesting that his opponents do the same for their bill.
"Because we are sent to Annapolis to represent the citizens of Maryland, the homosexual community should demand that the bill sponsors petition their bill to the floor for a vote," said Dwyer in a statement today. "Dan Fermanski of Equality Maryland owes it to the homosexual community to demand a floor petition on HB 351."
Dwyer's comments suggest that he feels the same-sex marriage bill's supporters are only seeking to appease their base and do not expect the bill will ever see a vote before the full House.