Petula Dvorak

Faced with fury, Md. bill co-sponsor is now torn on same-sex marriage

Friday, March 4, 2011

The three voters sitting at a Prince George's County bus stop personified Tiffany Alston's dilemma.

The first was a 70-year-old church lady, shaking her head at the thought of two men marrying each other. "It's just not right. We shouldn't even be talking about such things, let alone voting on them," she tisked.

The second was a 45-year-old mother who understands that same-sex couples getting married isn't what she's used to. "I don't want them doing it because it's a novelty. Marriage is serious, no matter if it's a man and a woman or two women," she told me. "But to each his own. Who am I to judge? Love is hard enough to find in the first place."

And the third was a 19-year-old with iPod buds in his ears. He takes them out long enough to scowl at me a bit.

"Why should I care if two men want to get married? So what? Big deal. So do it."

These are the folks Alston, a Democratic state delegate from Mitchellville, is representing when she casts her vote for or against the state's same-sex marriage bill.

And what she's going to do has been the subject of high drama in Annapolis all week.

Alston, 33, is a freshman delegate and one of the sponsors of the bill. When she ran for office, she made it clear that she would support a move toward making same-sex marriage legal in Maryland.

"I do believe it's a human right, it's a constitutional issue," she told me. The bill passed in the Senate 25 to 21 last week, and it seemed as though everyone was on the same page.

But then came the calls and the fury. "Maryland is so liberal, yes," Alston said. "But there are the churches."

A solidly blue state, Maryland also has deep Catholic roots, and the black churches of Prince George's are a force. An unexpected force for Alston.

"We have about 900 messages we're trying to get through today," she said. "And look at that red light on the phone that says it's ringing. All. Day. Long. Ringing."

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