Maryland Governor Introduces Marriage Equality Bill

Maryland Governor Introduces Marriage Equality Bill

Maryland governor Martin O’Malley introduced marriage equality
legislation Monday with clarification on protections for religious
institutions and leaders. 

A survey commissioned in October by the Human Rights Campaign and conducted by the Garin Hart Yang polling firm showed that 51 percent would support same-sex marriage in Maryland if the issue went to referendum.

Another poll, conducted by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies, that surveyed voters about several statewide issues put support for same-sex marriage at 48 percent among Marylanders who vote regularly.A survey commissioned in October by the Human Rights Campaign and conducted by the Garin Hart Yang polling firm showed that 51 percent would support same-sex marriage in Maryland if the issue went to referendum.

The Baltimore Sun reports that O’Malley said he hoped the new language would make the religious protections “a little clearer” and help the bill garner “additional support.” The bill passed the senate for the first time last year with bipartisan support, but opposition from lawmakers with religious ties, including those connected to influential African-American churches in Prince George’s County, contributed to the bill’s failure to receive a vote on the house floor.

O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said the new bill extends legal protections to leaders of religious groups, compared to last year’s bill that only protected institutions.

“The bill also makes clear that religious leaders, not the state, control theological doctrine, Guillory said,” according to the Sun. “And it further limits any punitive actions — like denying government funds — that the state could take against religious organizations for failing to perform same-sex marriages.”

Governor O’Malley, who has made the bill one of his legislative priorities this year, said he was not sure whether the changes would lead to more support. The state’s Roman Catholic bishops have strongly opposed the bill, while the Marylanders for Marriage Equality coalition has been working to build support among the state’s significant African-American population with videos featuring celebrities such as actress Mo’Nique and former NAACP chairman Julian Bond.

Opponents of the bill have threatened to challenge it with a referendum this fall. According to The Gazette of Politics and Business, a survey commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign in October found that 51% of respondents would support marriage equality if it went to the ballot in the state. Meanwhile, a poll from Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies last week indicated that 48% of Maryland voters support marriage equality.

The Washington Post reports that O’Malley is scheduled to host a breakfast Tuesday morning with same-sex couples in Annapolis. He will discuss the marriage equality bill at a news conference afterward with lawmakers, clergy and labor leaders.

The Sun also reports that the bill will have a hearing in the senate judicial proceedings committee on January 31.

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