Maryland governor Martin O'Malley spoke with a local talk radio show Tuesday about his decision to prioritize the marriage equality bill in the 2012 legislative session and shared his hopeful thoughts on the prospects for the measure.
The Democratic governor appeared on the Ask the Governor program on WTOP in Washington, D.C., with host Mark Segraves. O'Malley, who supported civil unions when first elected in 2006, was asked about the evolution of his views.
"I had made a judgment, Mark, and thought that the place for consensus -- the point at which that wave would crest, if you will -- was around civil unions," said the former Baltimore mayor. "I think we are past that point, and I believe that the consensus that needs to be reached is on marital equality rights. And I intend to sponsor that legislation and make it part of our legislative agenda in the upcoming session."
Asked about the prospects for the bill, which opponents will likely challenge in a referendum if it passes, O'Malley said, "I hope it passes. I think it should pass."
Segraves also asked the governor about the role of African-American churches from Prince George's County in blocking marriage equality legislation this year. The bill passed the Senate but did not receive a vote in the House because of inadequate support.
"I don't know. I know that's part of it," said O'Malley. "But there were also a number of different places where votes could have materialized to put it over, not only in Prince George's County but in other counties as well."
O'Malley expressed support for the bill this year but sustained criticism over his tepid endorsement. Since then, and in the wake of legislative victory in New York, he has moved to prioritize the measure with a press conference last month that emphasized the balance between marriage equality and religious freedom. The Catholic governor wrote a letter to Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore earlier this month that outlined his position.
"As governor, I am sworn to uphold the law without partiality or prejudice," wrote O'Malley. "When shortcomings in our laws bring about a result that is unjust, I have a public obligation to try to change that injustice."
The fight for marriage equality will be coordinated by a coalition called Marylanders for Marriage Equality. Members include Progressive Maryland, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, Maryland Catholics for Equality, the Maryland Black Family Alliance, and Pride in Faith.
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