Personal appeals on Md. gay marriage bill making a difference, lawmakers say
Sunday, March 6, 2011; 11:13 PM
When he learned that Sen. James Brochin was planning to vote against Maryland's same-sex marriage bill, Tim Connor was dumbfounded.
After all, he and Brochin (D-Baltimore County) knew each other pretty well: For several summers, they had volunteered side by side in the concession stand at the neighborhood pool, where both have daughters on the swim team.
So last month, Connor, who adopted his 11-year-old daughter with his same-sex partner of 20 years, called his senator on his cellphone.
"I said, 'Jim, what are you doing here?' " Connor recalled. " 'Look at it through the kids' eyes. They don't have any issue with this.' "
Brochin didn't tip his hand at the time, but a couple of weeks later, he joined a majority of senators voting for the bill. That 25 to 21 vote shifted action on the legislation to the House, where a committee approved the bill Friday, setting up what promises to be a dramatic debate in the full chamber this week.
As legislators have weighed the highest-profile issue in Annapolis this year - in some cases trying to reconcile their desire to extend rights with their religious beliefs - they've heard plenty from lobbyists and advocacy groups on both sides.
But it's the personal appeals that are making a difference, some lawmakers say.
Del. Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George's) cited the outpouring of opposition from black churches in her county as one reason for reconsidering her support of the legislation last week. On Sunday, ministers in some African American churches preached about the legislation and asked their congregations to register their opposition with lawmakers. A prayer vigil is planned for Monday night in Annapolis.
"I know that my community does not like this bill," Alston told her colleagues before voting against the measure Friday as a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Alston's unexpected absence at a voting session earlier in the week had slowed the bill's progress.
Some of the personal outreach on both sides has been coordinated.
As part of a lobbying campaign, Equality Maryland, the state's leading gay-rights organization, has nudged neighbors, co-workers and fellow pool members of lawmakers to make personal appeals. Connor was encouraged to call Brochin by a former executive director of the group.
Within the same span of a few days, the senator's position was also questioned by a real estate broker in his district and a Republican constituent with whom he speaks regularly.