01/13/11-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
Maryland is one of the states where marriage equality could soon be coming. Of course, it should be noted that, as with New Hampshire, any legislative victory will have to be maintained and it will be necessary to fight a second time to make sure that the legislature in two years is not overrun by those who are opposed to marriage equality. Equality Maryland has issued the following statement regarding this particular issue:
“This is the year Maryland will once and for all pass legislation to protect all of its individuals and families – from employment to marriage, it is time to treat all our citizens fairly.”
(Annapolis, MD, January 12, 2011) – Today, as the state legislature launched its 2011 session, Equality Maryland reaffirmed its commitment to passing two bills this year: one ending the exclusion of loving and committed gay and lesbian couples from marriage and another ending
discrimination in employment, housing, and credit based on gender expression and identity.
“This is the year Maryland will once and for all pass legislation to protect all of its individuals in families – from employment to marriage, it is time to treat all our citizens fairly,” said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Executive Director of Equality Maryland.
“Equality Maryland is proud to work with true champions to end the exclusion of loving and committed gay couples from marriage,” said Ms. Meneses-Sheets.
The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act will enable gay and lesbian couples to go to the county clerk’s office or the courthouse and get a marriage license. No religious institutions or clergy members would be compelled to marry same-sex couples. It is being introduced by Majority Leader Kumar Barve (D-17) and Delegate Keiffer Mitchell (D-44). The Senate version will be advanced by Majority Leader Rob Garagiola (D-15) and Senator Rich Madaleno (D-18).
Advocates say that the bill is not only about fairness, but also offers some relief in these tough economic times. A 2007 Williams Institute report entitled “The Impact on Maryland’s Budget of Allowing Same-Sex Couples to Marry” found that ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage in Maryland would “have a positive impact on the state budget of approximately $3.2 million annually.”
Senate Minority Leader Alan Kittleman recently announced plans to push for a civil unions bill. Local advocates have commended his willingness to work to achieve legal equality for gay and lesbian couples, but believe that his proposal will not achieve that goal.
“Civil union doesn’t work. In other states with civil union, people have been barred from a dying partner’s bedside and denied the ability to say goodbye to the person they love. That just doesn’t happen when you’re married because everyone knows what marriage means,” said Ms. Meneses-Sheets.
Equality Maryland will also continue the important work of updating the state anti-discrimination protections. The law works to prevent discrimination based on race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, or disability. Unfortunately, the current law leaves transgender Marylanders without these important protections.
“Just imagine being unable to keep your job because of who you are,” said Meneses-Sheets. “All hardworking people in Maryland, including transgender people, should have the chance to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families. Nobody should have to live in fear that they can be legally fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance.”
The Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act will be introduced by Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D-21). The bill provides protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in the areas of employment, housing and credit.
“Equality Maryland is proud to have strong allies in the legislature and in every community across the state who are working hard to make sure that the Free State lives up to the promise of equality for all Marylanders,” concluded Ms. Meneses-Sheets.