Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Madaleno on Marriage

My schedule has been keeping me away from the blog lately, but after this morning I should be back to normal, so to speak. In the meantime, we should take note of this really nice piece that Maryland State Senator Rich Madaleno had in the Washington Post this past week.
In 2002, I became the first openly gay person elected to the Maryland General Assembly. It was important to me to be straightforward about who I was while not being pigeonholed as “the gay guy.” I immersed myself in my role as a public servant, focused on my constituents and worked hard. As time passed, people began to see me as “the budget guy,” or as an advocate for education, addiction treatment or developmental disability programs, or simply as Rich. My colleagues also came to know my husband, Mark.

Seven years have helped me to transcend being defined by my sexual orientation. But seven years, two wonderful children and a church wedding later, my husband and I are still denied the fundamental protections of civil marriage. Anyone who has ever stood up for his or her family will understand why the risk of being viewed as “the gay senator” can no longer keep me from speaking out. Achieving the freedom to marry, and removing a restriction that impedes the development of secure families, is a matter of fundamental social justice that needs vocal champions.

This year and last, with 52 of my colleagues, I introduced legislation to allow people to enter into civil marriage contracts regardless of gender. Unfortunately, this bill has yet to appear on a voting list in either chamber. This legislative inertia doesn’t have to be the end of the story, as I will explain in a moment. But, at a personal level, it has caused me to rethink this basic aspect of my public service: Until more legislators are willing to stand with me, there is no question that I must speak on behalf of my family and the thousands like us. As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Truth ..... must be clothed with flesh and blood, or it cannot tell its whole story.”

It will soon be 10 years since Mark and I were set up on a fateful blind date and eight years since our wedding at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda. Do we have a marriage license? No. But marriage is more than a legal document. The foundation of ours is the commitment we made, before our families and religious community, to build a life together and to be there for one another in good times and bad. The root of our marriage isn’t a license but our son and daughter, our families, our home, our memories and our dreams. But make no mistake — a marriage license would mean vital rights and responsibilities for our family, especially during turbulent financial times, and in matters related to health care, child-rearing, social services, retirement and, though we do not relish the thought, the time when one of us leaves this life for something greater.

In Maryland, instead of allowing us to legally marry, the General Assembly has passed a few limited bills to placate us “domestic partners,” as we are referred to in law. We appreciate the 10 to 15 rights of marriage now within our reach. But with 400-plus rights of marriage bestowed by the state and more than a thousand bestowed by the federal government, it is clear that no arrangement other than civil marriage will achieve equal protection under the law or erase the sting to our personhood that results from denying us the freedom to marry.

Gaining this support in the General Assembly may take time. But there is a way in which Maryland can move forward immediately.

While Maryland does not allow same-gender couples to legalize their relationships here, many such couples in our state are already legally married. Some had destination weddings in a pro-equality state such as Vermont or Massachusetts; others were married before moving to Maryland for work or family. Recently, I asked for an opinion from Attorney General Doug Gansler regarding whether Maryland should follow the District and New York and honor these legal marriages. Having reviewed our case law, I believe we have a legal obligation to do just that. In the past, Maryland has, as a legal principle, honored marriages performed elsewhere even when those marriages could not have been performed here. A government should not dissolve a validly contracted marriage without even one party requesting it.

The fact that the legislature is crippled by inaction on this issue does not end Maryland’s responsibility to the law. With the stroke of a pen, Gansler and Gov. Martin O’Malley can help to bring peace and security to thousands of Maryland families.

Mark and I would prefer to make it “official” in Maryland rather than traveling to New England. But until more of my colleagues in the General Assembly make it possible for gays and lesbians to legally marry here, we could at least take heart in knowing that our marriage was honored by our state. Whatever road it takes to get there, this “gay guy” looks forward to the day when his family is like any other, and when future generations have no understanding of what it was like before all Americans had the freedom to marry the person they love. A Marriage Like Any Other


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Whatever road it takes to get there, this “gay guy” looks forward to the day when his family is like any other, and when future generations have no understanding of what it was like before all Americans had the freedom to marry the person they love"

don't hold your breath

September 01, 2009 9:12 AM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...


"Don't hold your breath."

Is that the best response you have to this heartfelt missive from Senator Madaleno?

You might want to step back, take a breath, and think about what Rich has to say here. Look deeply into your heart.

Think about what you would want for a child of yours if that child happened to be gay.

Think about what you would want for a lifelong friend who disclosed to you that he or she is gay.

September 01, 2009 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"marriage" is not the word for homosexual unions, Dave

most jurisdictions have expressed a willingness to give homosexual unions pretty much the same legal status as marriage if they stop trying to destroy the meaning of the term

that's highly tolerant

someone should have a heartfelt talk with Rich and explain that to him

September 01, 2009 3:37 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

As you said, David, it is a heartfelt missive. He expresses it well.


September 01, 2009 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're not helping, Robert

Rich needs to realize that unless he gets a gal, he ain't gettin' hitched

September 01, 2009 8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

boycott time:

"Same-sex marriage is legal in Vermont as of today and to celebrate, Ben & Jerry's has renamed its Chubby Hubby ice cream flavor "Hubby Hubby" for the month."

let's just call this "Haagen Daaz" Month!

September 02, 2009 2:29 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...


You write, that "most jurisdictions have expressed a willingness to give homosexual unions pretty much the same legal status as marriage if they stop trying to destroy the meaning of the term." In other words, I suppose, a state constitutional amendment that would reserve the M word for straight couples, but mandate that gay couples would be entitled to ALL the substantive rights and responsibilities as straight couples. I am not aware of any state that has done that.

More to the point, would you support legislation or a state or federal constitutional amendment to grant gay couples ALL the same legal rights and responsibilities that straight couples have, except use of the M word? If not, then your response is meaningless.

There are people who follow Shakespeare's phrase in Romeo and Juliet: "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet." I do not agree with that approach. But if you do, then that would be a reasoned basis for disagreement. Still, the question for you is, would you support a legal regime in which both gay and straight couples have all the same rights and responsibilities, the only difference being the M word?

September 02, 2009 4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't say I personally supported recognizing gay unions. My vote would be not to recognize them at all.

I was just saying that society, in general, seems to have decided that is appropriate. As far as I can tell, I appear to be in the minority on this issue.

I don't think anyone wants to integrate the gay union idea into the Federal Constitution or a state one.

That Shakespeare, man. What a crazy cat!

I saw a production of Merry Wives of Windsor recently that made me realize he conceived I Love Lucy years ahead of time.

September 02, 2009 5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrea- not anon
Explain to me again, oh know nothing anon, how letting gay people marry will harm my marriage or yours? We extend the rights and blessing of marriage to Britney Spears for her first 17 hour "marriage" and her second joke marriage(and her frightening treatment of her children) along with many many others whose "marriages" are a hideous joke- but that is ok because they are straight?

September 03, 2009 6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, tell me when I said gay "marriage" would "harm my marriage or yours."

I don't remember saying that.

I do think that the purpose of the gay "marriage" movement is to do that but you'll have to ask the leaders of lunatic fringe gay advocacy groups how it would accomplish that.

Of course, the lunatic fringe wants this so bad that all other goals are subordinated to it.

In D.C., for example, they want statehood so they can vote and make laws without the approval of Congress. Except on this issue, where liberals are aggressively trying to prevent the public from voting on it.

Forutunately, leaders in the black community and D.C.'s most influential resident, POTUS, oppose gay "marriage" so the voters will eventually have their say.

September 03, 2009 8:14 AM  
Anonymous henry said...

btw, Andreary, how does Britney Spears personal drama "harm my marriage or yours"?

September 03, 2009 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Answer Andrea's question, "Anonymous"...........
"how letting gay people marry will harm my marriage or yours?"
You can't, because you do not have any logical reason to give.

If you are so worried about the sanctity of marriage, perhaps even the security of your own marriage because someone else might take that word away from you, you need to spend much more time worrying about the dreadful state of heterosexual marriage in the U.S. these days. Perhaps you could even find a solution for the horrendous divorce rate or the outrageously high rate of spousal/child abuse that takes place in the "sanctity" of heterosexual homes.
That would be a much more useful use of your excessive free time and it would spare all of us here your sanctimonious sermons and attacks on people whom you so obviously hate.

September 03, 2009 12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never said gays are hurting marriage and I'm not worried about the sanctity of marriage.

I guess that's disaapointing to you because that's what you wanted to argue about.

I see reason to change the definition of marriage and don't feel I need an excuse for that position.

Sorry, Charlie!

September 03, 2009 1:24 PM  
Blogger Emproph said...

"marriage" is not the word for homosexual unions… …stop trying to destroy the meaning of the term

Marriage, as used by the anti-gay industry, is a euphemism for love.

Put the word marriage in quotes, whine about the desecration of its definition, and you’ve effectively said that our love is fake, and by extension, imply that we’re too stupid to recognize the meaning of true love.

All without ever having to come across as an insulting a**hole.

September 04, 2009 5:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you start to talk about gay "marriage" without the quotes, you've already lost. This shifting of definitions of meaning is an old magic trick of the lunatic fringe.

Maybe you could try a new trick, like pulling condoms from behind ears.

"you’ve effectively said that our love is fake, and by extension, imply that we’re too stupid"

Talk about whining!

I didn't say that. You must feel guilty about your fakery and stupidity.

September 04, 2009 6:44 AM  
Blogger Emproph said...

“You must feel guilty about your fakery and stupidity.”

Projection: When a person has uncomfortable thoughts or feelings, they may project these onto other people, assigning the thoughts or feelings that they need to repress to a convenient alternative target.

September 04, 2009 9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you mean like when you whined about me whining?

September 04, 2009 10:20 AM  

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