Transcript

On Proposed Amendment Banning Same-Sex Marriage in Maryland

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Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery)
Maryland House of Delegates
Wednesday, February 1, 2006; 3:00 PM

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., (D-Montgomery) an openly gay state lawmaker who opposes the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Maryland, was online Wed., Feb. 1, at 3 p.m. ET to discuss the proposed amendment.

Del. Adelaide C. Eckardt (R-Dorchester), who supports a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Maryland, was online Wed., Feb. 1, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the proposed amendment.

From The Post:

Gay Marriage Amendment Seen Eroding Current Rights (Post, Feb. 1)

Ehrlich Urges Legislature To Debate Gay Marriage (Post, Jan. 31)

Gay Unions Fracture Md.'s Black Caucus (Post, Jan. 28)

Gay Marriage Ban Advances Toward Va. Referendum (Post, Jan. 26)

Democrats in Md. Try to Limit Fallout Of Gay Union Case (Post, Jan. 25)

Judge Strikes Down Md. Ban on Gay Marriage (Post, Jan. 21)

Interactive Graphic: Gay Marriage State-by-State

The transcript follows.

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Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: Thank you for allowing me to answer your questions concerning legislation to amend the Maryland constitution, House Bill 48. I do not support the call for a referendum on the issue of marriage equality. A constitution provides a blueprint for the structure of government and guarantees certain rights to protect its citizens from government interference. The Maryland Constitution provides its citizens the right to turn to both their elected representatives and to the judiciary to secure their liberties. This bill, if adopted, would deny this fundamental American right to all those who support marriage equality. I will not support this assault on our fundamental liberties. In my opinion, our country's great innovation was to develop a system of governance that checks majority rule with certain guaranteed rights for the minority no matter how despised. To deny a group of citizens access to their courts and to their legislature due to the decision of a single trail court judge is unwarranted.

I would encourage the readers to review carefully the language of HB 48. Section (B) of the amendment would prohibit the legal recognition of any relationship between two people of the same gender. Not only would it prohibit civil unions, it is so broad that it would prohibit any public agency from providing health care benefits to domestic partners. It is so vague that we cannot begin to know all of its consequences. For example, the language could prohibit a mother from designating a daughter in a power of attorney since they are both of the same gender and medical decision making is a benefit of marriage. Others say it could prohibit divorce. Therefore, I believe that this proposal is unworkable and unwieldy.

In addition, over the past 225 years, the amendment process has usually been reserved for expanding, not restricting, freedoms. Maryland's own checkered constitutional history is filled with failed attempts to restrict freedom at the whim of public opinion. Maryland is, in fact, on its fourth constitution since independence. The three prior constitutions were revoked after they each became weighed down with too many restrictions. For example, the first constitution, ratified in 1776, prohibited Jews from serving in elected office while, ironically, guaranteeing freedom of religion. The third constitution, ratified in 1864 as Civil War passions flared, barred any person who had ever been a registered Democrat from voting in future elections. I will not vote for another such restriction. I will fight any legislation that seeks to write discrimination into our laws, because I do not believe it is right to place anyone's life or liberties up to a popular vote.

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Germantown, Md.: If the court ruling stands and there is no constitutional amendment, can counties act on their own to allow gay marriage?

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: If the high court, which in Maryland we call the Court of Appeals, upholds the decision and there is no legislative action on the issue, the counties would not need to act as it would be state law.

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Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: However, it is very important to note that only one decision on this issue has been issued so far. A lengthy appellate process remains. It may be two years before a final decision is issued. Until then, the current law remains in place. That is why I believe the constitutional amendment is unnecessary. We should let the judicial process work itself out as Gov. Ehrlich stated in his initial response to the court ruling.

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Bethesda, Md.: Thank you for your work. As a strong supporter of family life and commitment as well as gay marriage as a constitutional civil right, how do our delegates and senators in Maryland plan to support the rights of gay people while addressing the hate groups that threaten to dismantle the (mostly) Democrats supporting civil rights? I see this as an election year quagmire.

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: Supporters of equal rights are working hard to block this amendment since there is no consensus on the issue. We need to let the court process work itself out and to keep talking about the meaning and benefits of marriage. This was not a major issue in Massachusetts elections last year. Only seven state legislators around the country lost their re-election due to voting against anti-gay measures. The issues that will turn the next election are health care, education, transportation, public safety, and energy costs, not fear and ignorance.

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Fairfax, Va.: How do anti-gay-marriage people explain the process whereby allowing gay marriage will destroy the traditional family? Are they basing this on scientific studies? I don't see any cause and effect. I am interested in their thought process on this. Thanks.

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: The most coherent explanation I have heard deals with the belief that gay men are inherently promiscuous and non-monogamous and therefore more commonly have open relationships. The reasoning goes that if Adam and Steve can be married and still be non-monogamous, then the husband living next door will be more tempted to cheat on his wife, thus weakening one of the fundamental characteristics of marriage - fidelity. The data I have seen on this issue is shoddy in my opinion. It is based on a media-driven stereotype. In reality, marriage equality will not impact anyone's marriage. It will, however, provide same gendered couples with stability and confidence in their relationships. Contrary to the pronouncements of many on the right, same gender relationships are quite stable. In Vermont, which has had legal civil unions for five years, less than 2% have been dissolved.

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Silver Spring, Md.: My religion (reform Judaism) strongly supports the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, and yet our religious ceremony isn't recognized by the state. How would legalizing same-sex marriages affect organized religions? Would making same-sex marriage legal force religious organizations to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies?

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: Even if same sex marriage was to become legal in Maryland, no religious official or denomination would be forced to recognize that marriage. Just like today, no church is required to recognize a marriage conducted by a civil authority.

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Baltimore, Md.: First of all, thanks for being out and being strong. Are your colleagues who want GLBT people to be second class citizens able to face you and tell you that your family is less valuable to society than theirs?

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: No, they usually refrain from making eye contact when discussing this issue. One of the most frustrating things is that many of the most vocal supporters of the constitutional amendment seem to be genuinely fond of my partner. There just seems to be a disconnect between the personal and the political.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Supporters of the amendment have said they may try to get enough votes (47, I think) so they can bypass the Judiciary Committee and go directly to the floor. I have two questions relating this:

(1) This would be 47 out of how many total delegates in the House?

(2) Can they use this procedure if the committee votes the amendment down, or is it available only if the committee has not yet taken a vote?

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: The House rules allow 47 Delegates (out of a total of 141) to sign a petition to bypass the ordinary process and move a bill directly from Committee to the floor. I believe this maneuver is only allowed before a committee votes on a bill.

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College Park, Md.: Del. Eckardt said that marriage was "initially" for procreation, which implies that this is no longer the basis, or at least not the sole basis for marriage. Eckardt's other argument for banning same-sex marriage was about tradition--it's always been that way. This is a faulty argument because by this standard we should re-enslave blacks as well as disenfranchise them.

I'm often disappointed by Democrats unwillingness to take Republicans to task for their entirely baseless and unsound arguments, such as these by Del. Eckardt. How will you challenge Republicans "arguments" against a ban on same-sex marriage?

washingtonpost.com: Discussion Transcript: Del. Adelaide C. Eckardt (R-Dorchester) (Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2 p.m. ET)

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: I think part of it is to point out exactly what you just said. A constitutional scholar testified yesterday that HB 48 is so broad that it might well eliminate or ban divorce in Maryland.

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North Bethesda, Md.: Sir, the Maryland judge who ruled on this issue said that the state's DOMA was unconstitutional as measured against our state constitution. If the people want to adopt an amendment to the state constitution to have it protect marriage - essentially, so our DOMA is constitutional - why would you deny us the chance to make this choice? If you would allow us the chance to decide for ourselves, you would still be free to oppose the amendment on your strongly felt moral views, and no one would be denied their rightful access to the legislature or the courts.

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: I do not believe it is appropriate or proper to put provisions RESTRICTING rights into the Constitution. Questions related to the right of people to enjoy life, liberty and freedom are not issues to be decided by popularity contests - no matter how strongly people may believe they are right and others are wrong. What part of your life would you like to put up to a vote?

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Washington, D.C.: Would the state consider allowing gay couples to designate one another as beneficiaries for life insurance plans and other benefits, even if the state would not allow same sex marriages?

Would that not be a possible compromise?

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: We tried something similar last year in a bill dealing with medical decision-making rights for all unmarried couples. Unfortunately, that bill was vetoed by the Governor, leaving us with no choice but to turn to the courts.

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Snoops in College Park, Md.: Why don't you put in an amendment banning divorce in the state of Maryland? Or how about not allowing divorcees get married again? They are the real the threat to the "sanctity of marriage."

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: I totally agree and, if my colleagues want to have a full and open debate about "protecting marriage", I believe all of these topics should and will be on the table.

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Savage, Md.: Judge Murdock ruled that the existing law would not withstand a constitutional challenge? By trying to introduce a constitutional amendment before the Court of Appeals has reviewed Judge Murdock's ruling, aren't the opponents of same-sex marriage implying that they believe the existing law might really be unconstitutional?

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: Yes. They clearly must believe that our constitution demands marriage equality. It is also part of a larger effort to discredit, and bypass, our entire judicial system at both the state and national levels.

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Anonymous: Does this have the same implications as the Virginia one? Namely, potentially creating huge problems with protective orders (making them next to impossible to get) because of redefining what is and what isn't a family?

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: Yes. If this amendment is adopted as currently drafted the ramifications could be quite far-reaching. Even, as I said before, prohibiting a mother from designating a daughter in a power of attorney, since they are both of the same sex. This is one reason why historically the Legislature has taken its time in deliberating on any constitutional amendment. Constitutional amendments are weighty issues that could have unforeseen consequences. Therefore, we must move slowly and with respect for an ongoing judicial process.

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Arlington, Va.: I think the issue about marriage for same sex couples is about fairness. In this case you have a minority that is barred from accessing the rights and responsibilities of marriage. Even if a majority of Marylanders are against gay marriage it doesn't matter the minority still deserves equality otherwise you will end up with a Tyranny of the Majority. James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper 51: "It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure." Let the courts decide, that's what they are there for. Preventing a Tyranny of the Majority is a basic foundation of our society, if you attack that we will have problems. Wouldn't you agree?

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: Absolutely!

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Lansdowne, Md.: If this constitutional amendment were to pass, how would it impact the wills and power of attorneys that my partner and I have? My understanding is that the amendment would invalidate all legal contacts between members of the same sex.

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: It very well could do so, which would only invite more litigation and more involvement from the courts. It could cause deep harm to families in Maryland.

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Falls Church, Va.: The Republican party has stolen the issue of gay civil rights and made it into a "religious" issue, clearly to placate their revenue stream.

Why is more not being done to re-spin this back into a civil rights issue, with emphasis on the clear violation of separation of church and state, as well as the sheer un-American tone of the entire anti-gay ethos?

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: Leaders of the coalition opposing the bill prominently include the state chapter of the NAACP for the very reasons you stated. Julian Bond, the president of the national NAACP, was the keynote speaker at Equality Maryland's fall meeting. The text of his speech is available at www.equalitymaryland.org. He lays out a compelling case for why this is the civil rights issue of our day.

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Hagerstown, Md.: I think the reasoning put forth by the Baltimore City Circuit Court is insightful. As a matter of law, Declaration of Rights Article 46 and subsequent interpretation, particularly the disavowal of the so-called equal application theory as a matter of logic an policy, preclusion of marriage by individuals who have the intention of creating a family unit, is gender discrimination and an affront to equal protection.

Defendants in Deane have not offered compelling evidence justify denial of Maryland gay and lesbian citizens equal protection of the laws. I am afraid the political exploitation of this issue will lead to not only continued denial of a basic civil rights, but the continued debasement of gay and lesbian individuals- and even violence against them.

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: Unfortunately, this issue IS being exploited for political gain, which is why it is advisable to depend on the objectivity of impartial judges.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Your argument, I think, about putting life, liberty, etc., to popular vote is way too simplistic and unpersuasive. All questions of liberty are decided by "popular" vote every day in the state. I don't have freedom to be drunk in public, or to smoke in bars, or build whatever I want on my own property. All of these are limited by "popular" vote, as reflected in the law. This issue is not any different. Are you that afraid of the electorate that you will attempt to deny the public a vote? It seems that you are the one stifling liberty.

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: The important thing to note about the issues listed in your question is that they are not fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Building codes are not included in a constitution and, therefore, are never voted on in elections. They are far easier to amend because they appear in statute or regulation.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Many same-sex couples are raising kids, either from previous marriages or through adoption or other means. Does it help or hurt kids when their parents can't marry?

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: It certainly hurts kids when their parents can't marry. Children crave stability in their lives and without the structure of marriage, they may feel that their parents' relationship is less than permanent.

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Laurel, Md.: Rich,

Can you expand on the issue of making a distinction between civil marriage licenses and religious marriage ceremonies performed by ordained religious leaders? I cannot emphasize enough that no one in Maryland is advocating for laws or rulings that would force any religious organization to perform same sex marriages. What if we just called ALL state-provided marriage licenses to straight or gay/lesbian couples, civil marriages? I think that would satisfy many citizens, but not the likes of Del. Dwyer.

Tim Bernadzikowski

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: Yes, I agree with your point. This is why this emotional, quick debate on this issue - this drive to vote immediately - is unproductive.

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Princeton, NJ: I am a proud father with two daughters. Let me tell you about my older daughter J. J. went to a very selective college W. where she met and fell in love with M. After they graduated, they had some difficulty getting good jobs, but by last Fall they both had good positions and decided to get married. It was a lovely ceremony. They work hard, go to museums, and use the library a lot for books and DVD's. They pay their taxes and have never been arrested-no traffic or parking violations either since they have no car! They just purchased a condo in Cambridge (MA, not MD) and are nervous about their mortgage. They are a sweet wonderful couple. Maybe somebody can explain why you folks in MD feel so threatened by them. Oh, BTW, W. is Wellesley and J. and M. are women.

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: This is why the judge ruled that Maryland's current law constitutes gender discrimination and that the State has no rational reason for denying marriage equality.

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20744: Invalidating wills and powers of attorneys??? Since women typically live longer than men, will my wishes and legal documents be ignored because a female is the designated person?? By the way I am heterosexual. With family living further apart, divorce not unusual, who are people suppose to put in charge of their affairs if they become unable to make decisions but have chosen a person of the same sex to fulfill their wishes on health care, death, estate, etc.?

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: I hope you have some living male relative (or friend), because you may be out of luck if this amendment is adopted.

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Falls Church, Va.: The two examples of regulated behavior cited by "Silver Spring" both include possible harm being done either to other citizens or one's self.

The civil right of gay citizens to enjoy the legal rights of "marriage" does harm to no one.

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: Thanks for being more thoughtful in your response!

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Grinning: I appreciate your sense of humor!

A little irony can go a long way. And you stay polite and on topic at the same time. Much appreciated.

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: Can I use your quote in a campaign mailing?

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Wheaton, MD: Hi, Rich. A couple of weeks ago I heard you express the concern that this proposed amendment might forbid someone from giving (e.g.) a health-care power of attorney to anyone of the same gender regardless of relationship. You gave the example that, under this proposed amendment, your father might not be allowed to designate you as his attorney in fact, and you said you had someone checking into it. Have you received any answers to this concern?

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: The Attorney General's office has advised that the language IS so broad that it could be construed to have that effect.

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Rockville, Md.: How likely is it that the Republicans will succeed in using a procedural maneuver in either chamber to get the Amendment to a vote? And if they succeed, which Democrats will likely vote for it?

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: We are taking the threat of passage of the amendment very seriously. Last week, in the State of the State address the Governor spoke about longing for a return to civility in the Legislature. Unfortunately, he and many others have apparently exempted this issue from that call. The other side has signaled its willingness to use any maneuver and any threat to advance this bill. As I mentioned before, it would take the signatures of 47 members of the House to move the bill from the Committee to the House floor, but it will take 85 to actually pass the amendment.

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Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. D-Montgomery: Thank you for the many thoughtful questions. I am sorry I could not answer more of them. I hope everyone will remain engaged in this important debate.

Go Terps!

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washingtonpost.com: Del. Adelaide C. Eckardt (R-Dorchester), who supports a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Maryland, was online Wed., Feb. 1, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the proposed amendment.

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