Same-Sex Marriage Battle Quickly Moves to Next Arena: The Assembly

By Annapolis Notebook
Sunday, September 23, 2007; C04

Equality Maryland, the gay-rights group on the losing side of last week's court ruling upholding the state's ban on same-sex marriage, has issued a call to arms.

"Having just faced such a heartbreaking loss, sometimes it is hard to feel energized about continuing our fight for equality," Executive Director Dan Furmansky wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "Make no mistake -- we cannot stop."

The group plans a canvassing and lobbying campaign and a major fundraising push before the start of the General Assembly's 90-day session, when several lawmakers have pledged to file a bill, called the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, that would legalize same-sex marriage.

The Silver Spring-based nonprofit group added staff workers and expanded its crew of lobbyists in Annapolis to prepare for the Court of Appeals decision.

"We believe people will be a little more inspired than normal" to give money, Furmansky said in an interview.

Equality Maryland also is working hard to build alliances in Maryland's large black community, which is divided on the issue of same-sex marriage.

On the other side, those championing a constitutional ban on gay marriage are promising a grass-roots campaign.

"There is an organized effort going on," said Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. (R-Anne Arundel), who has seen his bill for a constitutional amendment defeated in the legislature for three years running. "But it would be foolish for me to reveal what we're doing."

-- Lisa Rein

Taking an Accounting of Blame

Let the tax wars begin.

As soon as Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) started rolling out key elements of his plan to close the state's estimated $1.7 billion shortfall by taxing some Marylanders more and others less, the Republican and Democratic parties had no shortage of words for who's to blame for the fiscal predicament.

"Governor Martin O'Malley Addresses What Ehrlich Wouldn't" screamed a news release issued by the Maryland Democratic Party, blaming former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, for a litany of "regressive tax hikes," fee increases and fiscal "band-aids" that failed to avert the current shortfall.

"Unless he was a potted plant for four years, he knew exactly what was coming," party spokesman David Paulson said. "People need to understand that Ehrlich left the state in terrible fiscal shape."

The headline on the news release issued by the Maryland Republican Party was equally colorful: "Marylanders Are Not O'Malley's Personal Pocket Book."

"He's at it again. Martin O'Malley is proposing massive tax hikes on working families disguised as tax cuts," the offensive read, calling the governor's tour to unveil his tax plan an "infomercial" that is "trying to sell the public on how he is defending them, when, in fact, he is robbing them."

A spokesman for Ehrlich noted that the news releases issued by the current governor explains some prime reasons for the potential deficit: an income-tax rollback and a massive school-funding plan, both passed during the administration of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat.

"Neither of which Governor Ehrlich had anything to do with," Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said.

-- Lisa Rein

O'Malley's Road Gets Rockier

When Gov. Martin O'Malley made three stops across the state last week announcing pieces of his revenue package, he was joined in each jurisdiction by supportive leaders: Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith (D), Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D) and Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon (D).

All three praised O'Malley for tackling the state's budget problems and voiced support for a special session of the legislature.

Tomorrow could be more interesting: O'Malley is to appear in Montgomery County to talk about transportation funding with County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).

Leggett is expected to largely support O'Malley's plans on that issue, but he was critical last week of the governor's proposal to overhaul the income tax, saying it was "not acceptable" for upper-income earners to have to pay what O'Malley is proposing.

One local leader not scheduled to appear with O'Malley is Anne Arundel Executive John R. Leopold (R).

Leopold, a former member of the House of Delegates, opposes much of what O'Malley has proposed, but he called The Washington Post last week to support one part of O'Malley's plan: closing a corporate loophole that allows large corporations to avoid transfer taxes on multimillion-dollar property sales. A large share of the transfer tax flows to counties.

-- John Wagner

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