By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com February 10 2011 7:50 AM ET
Maryland state senator James Brochin announced Thursday that he had
changed his vote on the marriage equality bill from no to yes following
the "appalling" testimony from the bill's opponents earlier this week.
Brochin released a statement about the transformation prompted by almost eight hours of testimony on Tuesday.
“What I witnessed from the opponents of the bill was appalling," he said. “Witness after witness demonized homosexuals, vilified the gay community, and described gays and lesbians as pedophiles. I believe that sexual orientation is not a choice, but rather people are born one way or another. The proponents of the bill were straightforward in wanting to be simply treated as everyone else, and wanted to stop being treated as second-class citizens.
“For me, the transition to supporting marriage has not been an easy one, but the uncertainty, fear, and second-class status that gays and lesbians have to put up with is far worse and clearly must come to an end," he said.
Equality Maryland, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, hailed the announcement from Sen. Brochin.
“Equality Maryland is proud of Sen. Brochin’s declaration of support of civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples," said executive director Morgan Meneses-Sheets. "His recent change of heart proves that when people have the facts, and hear the real life stories from loving and committed couples, hearts and minds can and do change. We welcome Sen. Brochin to the growing coalition of elected officials from both sides of the aisle who have come to understand that ensuring equal treatment under the law is good public policy. There is no substitute for equality -- and only civil marriage can confer the respect, protection and responsibility to same-sex couples in the same manner that it is conferred to opposite-sex couples."
With Brochin on board, 21 senators, including one Republican,
publicly support the bill. The measure needs 24 votes to pass the
senate, but 29 votes will be required to break an anticipated
filibuster. Senate president Thomas V. Mike Miller, who opposes the
measure, has promised to find enough votes to stop the filibuster if marriage equality supporters can collect the 24 votes to pass the bill.
Prior to his announcement, The Baltimore Sun reported that Brochin, a Democrat from Baltimore County, said, "The demonization of gay families really bothered me. Are these families going to continue to be treated by the law as second class citizens?"
Hundreds of spectators including about 140 witnesses attended the senate committee hearing on the marriage equality bill that lasted until well after dark in Annapolis. The Democratic-controlled senate is expected to vote on the measure before the end of the month.
The marriage equality bill is expected to pass the house of delegates, and Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he will sign the bill if it passes.