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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 03/07/2011

A civics lesson for Maryland’s leaders

As a professor of political science, I admit that I tend to view political issues through a slightly different lens than many voters and certainly many elected leaders. Few things frustrate me more than when people fundamentally fail to understand the difference between a direct democracy and a representative republic. America is of course the latter, yet is all too often treated by voters and even representatives as if it is the former.

I’ve thought of this important distinction quite a lot lately as Maryland’s legislature has been considering a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. Similar bills had been introduced in the past, but they never survived Maryland’s Senate -- considered by many to be the more conservative half of the Maryland Assembly. When the legislation was introduced this year, political observers in the state again viewed the Senate as the challenge, and the House of Delegates as more friendly territory. Then the conventional wisdom was upended. The state Senate passed the marriage equality legislation by a vote of 25-21 after little more than two weeks of wrangling. Shortly after passing in the Senate, it became clear that the House of Delegates was not nearly so friendly.

What was most surprising was that the bill was being derailed in the House not by vocal opponents of the measure, but rather by delegates who had openly supported, even co-sponsored the measure. Dels. Tiffany Alston and Jill Carter prevented a vote on the bill in the Judiciary committee because they were having second thoughts about a bill each had co-sponsored. In the end, the bill was approved by the committee; Carter voted for it, but Alston voted against it, complaining: “This has not been the deliberative process that we normally engage in in this committee.” Perhaps the committee could have deliberated more had she not staged a walk-out when the bill was up for consideration.

Another bill sponsor, Del. Sam Arora, suddenly announced that he was opposed to the bill he sponsored and would vote against it on the floor. Two days later, he announced that he once again supported the bill that he had co-sponsored.

All of this intrigue is likely the result of a simple gamble taken by many delegates.

[Continue reading Todd Eberly’s post at The FreeStater Blog.]

Todd Eberly blogs at The FreeStaterBlog. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By  |  10:30 AM ET, 03/07/2011

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