Same-sex marriage has good chance of approval, Maryland Senate leader says

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 8, 2011; 10:41 PM

Supporters of same-sex marriage came to Annapolis on Tuesday armed with personal stories, emotional pleas for equal treatment and arguments about how allowing gay couples to marry could help Maryland's economy.

Opponents countered with biblical verses, research suggesting that children are better off with both a mother and a father, and warnings that "redefining marriage" could undermine other social institutions.

In all, about 140 witnesses signed up to testify on the highest-profile social issue facing the Maryland General Assembly this year. The committee hearing spanned more than seven hours.

Before the proceedings, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) put the chance of passing a same-sex marriage bill by his chamber at 60 to 70 percent, saying a vote could come next week.

If the bill clears the Senate, then the House of Delegates, typically the more liberal chamber on social issues, would take up the issue, deciding whether Maryland should join the District and five states that allow same-sex marriage.

'A badge of dishonor'

In the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee room, some of the most powerful testimony Tuesday was offered by an openly gay lawmaker, Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., who called it "a badge of dishonor" to have to introduce people to his "partner."

"We had a church wedding 10 years ago this year, and in the eyes of our religion, our families, our friends and in my heart, he is my spouse," Madaleno (D-Montgomery) said. "But under Maryland's civil law, he is a legal stranger to me."

Although some religious leaders testified in favor of the bill, opponents were bolstered by a parade of clergy members urging lawmakers to maintain Maryland's law, which limits marriage to a man and a woman.

"Your concern should not be pandering to the political move of the day but truthfully working to foster conditions which unequivocally have been proven to be the best environment for children and families," said Derek McCoy, a Beltsville pastor who is president of the Maryland Family Alliance. "Children do better economically, socially and educationally when raised by a mom and a dad."

Underscoring the intense interest in the legislation, an overflow room was set up in which a few hundred people who could not squeeze into the committee room could watch the proceedings on two large screens.

'Less of a citizen'

The same-sex marriage bill is expected to draw very little Republican support in the Maryland legislature - where Democrats hold lopsided majorities in both chambers. But to show some bipartisan support, several Republicans testified in favor of the measure early in Tuesday's proceedings.

Among them was Chrysovalantis P. Kefalas, who served as deputy legal counsel to former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). Kefalas said Ehrlich has continued to oppose same-sex marriage. But Kefalas said he considers the legislation to be consistent with Republican principles of freedom and limited government.

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