Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Maryland and New York: The Sun Opines

The Baltimore Sun has a thoughtful article about the Maryland legislature's failure to pass a marriage equality bill in light of New York's success at getting the job done.
The passage late last month of a gay marriage bill in New York has renewed hope among advocates in Maryland who were disappointed by the narrow defeat of similar legislation here this year. New York's law doubled the number of people living in states where same-sex marriages are legal, it pushed President Barack Obama even closer to embracing gay marriage, and it proved that a gay marriage bill can even succeed in a legislative chamber controlled by Republicans. New York's vote, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's quick signature of the bill into law, unquestionably added to a sense that the issue has momentum nationally. New York's lessons for Maryland on gay marriage

And while all that is true, as the article notes there is no guarantee that the momentum will carry over into the Maryland legislature, where our courageous leaders jump up and stand on their chairs shrieking "Eek! Eek!" whenever a little controversy runs across the floor.

The way the story is usually told, Governor O'Malley is depicted as being ready to sign the bill if the General Assembly would pass it, he waited patiently while a confused and frightened little-league legislature bobbled the ball and finally dropped it. Yet as we look at New York, Governor Cuomo obviously took a hands-on role in convincing hard-headed politicians -- and significantly Republicans -- to vote in favor of granting marriage equality to gay and lesbian couples.

The Sun nails it here:
The Cuomo case [...] shows the benefit of the governor, rather than gay rights activists, taking the lead. Mr. O'Malley said he made phone calls at advocates' direction this year to try to sway a dozen or so wavering votes. That's similar to the role Mr. Cuomo, then New York's attorney general, played in a previous, failed attempt to legalize gay marriage. This time around, he took charge and produced a more forceful, organized and strategic lobbying effort. There is no reason to believe the same wouldn't be true in Maryland. Governor O'Malley's chief legislative aide, Joseph C. Bryce, is the best in the business. With all due respect to Equality Maryland and the other advocacy groups that worked on this issue, the governor is delusional if he thinks they know better how to round up votes in Annapolis than Mr. Bryce does.

That is some careful wording, and well said. Certainly activists can have an effect, they can get in and talk to legislators, they can rally the public, but what is going to matter in the long run is getting the bill on the floor and making sure you have the votes for it. Politicians need to know somebody has their back if they vote for something controversial, they need to know exactly what the consequences will be before they stick their necks out. It's just how they are. The governor needed to make clear statements that he would throw his weight behind those who supported marriage equality, and he did not.

This unsigned opinion piece is exceptionally well written, I think, and I suggest that anyone serious about seeing a marriage bill passed in our state should read it. Regarding the risk to politicians who decide to change their opinion to favor marriage, The Sun offers this anecdote:
Senator Brochin had long opposed gay marriage, insisting on civil unions instead, until he changed his mind during a committee hearing this year. After the legislative session was over, he sent out his customary annual letter to constituents he had met over the years by knocking on doors, some 8,800 households and 14,000 voters.

"While my decision to support same-sex marriage did not come easily," he wrote, "I am convinced that it was the right decision. In the end, I could not let my preconceived notions and my own uneasiness over the word 'marriage' trump my commitment to provide equal protection under the law, and to allow same-sex couples to raise their families in peace, without fear of discrimination."

Before the letter went out, he said, people in his district were "pretty skeptical." But not now.

"When I'm at swim meets with my daughter, or at the Giant, or wherever, overwhelmingly people come up to me and say, 'I got your letter, and I understand why you did what you did. I'm not crazy about the word marriage, but I understand,'" he said.

And that, more than a sense of momentum from New York, is why gay marriage proponents should feel good about their chances next year.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

here's how most of the world views homosexuality, as the West declines:

"NEW DELHI -- India's health minister has derided homosexuality as an unnatural "disease" from the West.

The comments Monday by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad at a conference on HIV/AIDS in the Indian capital echoed a common refrain in the conservative South Asian nation that homosexuality is a Western import.

"Unfortunately this disease has come to our country too ... where a man has sex with another man, which is completely unnatural and should not happen, but does," Azad said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi and a slew of government ministers were also present at the conference.

Roughly 2.5 million Indians have HIV, making it the country with the largest number of people living with the virus in Asia.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court struck down a colonial era law – Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code – that made sex between people of the same gender punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The court ruling was noteworthy in a country where even heterosexual sex is rarely discussed openly.

Over the last decade homosexuals have slowly gained a degree of acceptance in a few parts of India, mostly its big cities. Many bars have gay nights, and some high-profile Bollywood films have dealt with gay issues. The last two years have also seen large gay pride parades in New Delhi and other big cities such as Mumbai and Kolkata.

Still, being gay remains deeply taboo in most of the country, and many homosexuals hide their sexual orientation from friends and families."

July 06, 2011 9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"there is no guarantee that the momentum will carry over into the Maryland legislature"

no guarantee, and, really, logical reason

momentum doesn't jump from state to state any more than tsunamis from the Pacific hit the East Coast of the U.S.

July 06, 2011 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And here's how Ghulam Nabi Azad feels about marriage and reproduction.

"NEW DELHI // In the absence of legislation in India to control the burgeoning population, the government is planning to launch an awareness programme to educate people about the virtues of late marriage and family planning. In New Delhi last week, the Indian health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad urged couples to marry after 30 years of age, saying resources in the country were unable to meet the demands of the growing population. "Only people who opt to marry at 30-31 should be awarded," he said at a ceremony to felicitate couples who have opted for late marriages.

Though the legal age of marriage in India is 18 for girls and 21 for boys, various studies conducted recently reveal that in rural India, which constitutes 70 per cent of the total population, girls are married as young as 13 years of age."

"Ghulam Nabi Azad has advocated a late marriage age of between 25 and 30, especially for girls, and has asked people, to watch television, instead of producing children. He married Shameem Dev Azad, a well known Kashmiri singer, in 1980, and they have a son and a daughter."

They must watch a lot of television.

July 06, 2011 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"momentum doesn't jump from state to state any more than tsunamis from the Pacific hit the East Coast of the U.S."

Tsunamis, ocean waves and currents have nothing to do with public opinion turning world wide. Even very Catholic Ireland is recognizing and allowing gay civil unions now.

"April 5, 2011

Ireland has its first official gay civil union: Hugh Walsh and partner Barry Dignam will be tying the proverbial knot after the civil union law goes into effect today.

After 17 years together, they couldn’t be happier to be the face of public civil partnerships in the country. “We feel a certain amount of responsibility that this is a big step which Ireland is taking and that we’re going to be a part of that,” Dignam told the Irish Times.

The legislation actually came into affect on January 1, but the six civil partnerships already registered were subject to a court-ordered exemption to the usual three months notice which couples must give to the General Registrar office. This means that Walsh and Dignam are the first couple in Ireland not to require an exemption to celebrate their gay marriage."

July 06, 2011 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SAN FRANCISCO— A federal appeals court ordered the U.S. government on Wednesday to immediately cease enforcing the ban on openly gay members of the military, a move that could speed the repeal of the 17-year-old rule.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the "don't ask, don't tell" policy must be lifted now that the Obama administration has concluded it's unconstitutional to treat gay Americans differently under the law. The appeals court noted that Congress repealed the policy in December and that the Pentagon is preparing to certify that it is ready to welcome gay
military personnel.

Pentagon officials said Wednesday that they will comply with the court order and are taking immediate steps to inform commanders in the field. Col. Dave Lapan, Pentagon spokesman, said the department is studying the ruling.

Gay rights advocates said without an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court — which seems unlikely since the Pentagon already is committed to repealing the rule — the government now is barred from discharging gay or lesbian servicemembers anywhere in the world.

“The ruling...removes all uncertainty — American service members are no longer under threat of discharge as the repeal implementation process goes forward,” R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said in a statement. Cooper is a captain in the Army Reserve.

The ruling came in response to a motion brought by Log Cabin Republicans, a group for gay GOP members, which last year persuaded a lower court judge to declare the ban unconstitutional.

After the government appealed U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips' decision, the 9th Circuit agreed to keep the policy in place until it could consider the matter. The appeals court reversed itself with Wednesday's order by lifting its hold on Phillips' decision.

"The circumstances and balance of hardships have changed, and (the government) can no longer satisfy the demanding standard for issuance of a stay," the panel said.

Although the stay is lifted, the 9th Circuit scheduled an Aug. 29 hearing to consider whether the government's appeal of the lower court's decision is valid. But it's unclear whether the Pentagon will pursue the appeal, since military officials have already said they'll stop enforcing the ban.

Still, Dan Woods, the lawyer representing Log Cabin Republicans, cautioned gay military personnel against rushing to declare their sexual orientations until the government declares that it intends to abide by the ruling.

During the eight-day period last fall before the 9th Circuit put Phillips' injunction prohibiting enforcement of "don't ask, don't tell" on hold, several of the estimated 14,000 veterans who had been discharged under the policy unsuccessfully tried to re-enlist. A handful of Air Force members and members of the National Guard have been discharged from the military under the policy since December.

“I have observed the reactions of my colleagues to the Department of Defense’s move toward open service, and can say with complete confidence that our military is ready, willing and able to take this step," Cooper said.

The Pentagon has been moving carefully to implement the repeal of the 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops. Under the law passed and signed by the president in December final implementation would go into effect 60 days after the president and his senior defense advisers certify that lifting the ban won't hurt troops' ability to fight.

July 06, 2011 8:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Do you not ever shut up?

July 06, 2011 11:47 PM  

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