Category Archives: marriage equality

Ben Jealous’s Need to Claim Credit for Marriage Equality is Just so Wrong

It’s a strange day when a straight man takes credit for marriage equality in Maryland but Ben Jealous is that guy.

I’m certainly happy that the NAACP moved to endorse marriage equality on his watch. It was a good decision and showed leadership. But it is a far cry from claiming to be the critical guy who made marriage equality happen.

In debates and on twitter, Jealous and his campaign have repeatedly cited the Baltimore Sun editorial honoring him as Marylander of Year as evidence to back up his claim. Indeed, it’s a generous editorial:

“Maryland is a better state — and ours is a more perfect union — because of Ben Jealous and his commitment to justice, equality, and the dignity of every child’s home,” Governor O’Malley said. “Here in Maryland, he was an indispensable part of repealing the death penalty, passing the Maryland Dream Act, ensuring civil marriage equality and expanding access to voting.”

When it comes to his being “indispensable” on marriage equality, however, Jealous and his campaign have been categorically unable and unwilling to provide any evidence to back up the claims of the editorial.

When the Jealous campaign tweeted a link to the editorial at me, I read it and then asked which legislators’ minds he had changed. The reply is revealing:

In other words, Jealous cannot identify a single legislator who changed their mind thanks to his efforts. I followed up by asking how many community organizers he had placed on the ground, as he claimed that had made the difference:

Personally, I preferred the Taylor Swift version of his reply. But again, it’s revealing. Rather than answer the hard-hitting question, he attacks the questioner. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to accuse me of “pride” when he’s the guy claiming to have gotten marriage equality and numerous other legislative initiatives done.

So ultimately, beyond the editorial and the nice quote from Martin O’Malley of the sort that politicians tend to give when asked about someone receiving an award, we’re left with a whole lot of bupkis for evidence.

As someone who was actively part of Equality Maryland’s legislative lobbying team and Co-President of Equality Maryland during the referendum fight, I have some knowledge on the question. Jealous never showed up at any of the strategy sessions held with key legislators that I attended.

Jealous  was certainly never mentioned when it came to recruiting key votes on the issues. Carrie Evans, the Executive Director of Equality Maryland, played a key role in recruiting at least one Republican to a yes vote. Rep. Jamie Raskin, then a state senator, played a similar role in wooing the vote of a colleague on the fence.

Most importantly, I know that Sen. Rich Madaleno, who I support, spent years indefatigably working on this issue long before it was fashionable. As part of a long-term strategy, he built legislative capital and support to get the bill on the floor and passed. So many outsider candidates like to denigrate Annapolis politics, yet how do they think bills become laws and why then are they running for office?

Moreover, Rich Madaleno focused his energies so heavily on raising money for the marriage campaign that his own campaign account was sufficiently low to attract a challenge from deep pocketed Dana Beyer. (I should also mention that Ben Jealous’s running mate, Susie Turnbull, was very active in assisting the effort to win the 2012 referendum.)

None of the leaders of Equality Maryland, or any other incredibly kind and giving people who worked hard on the bill, have ever claimed to have been the key person in getting marriage equality accomplished. While I feel I did my bit, I also know that many were on the scene long before I arrived and also personally saw the self-effacing involvement of many good people.

One example I remember often is that of Del. Ben Barnes. He carried the bill for years in the House before it had a real chance of becoming law. Nevertheless, when asked to step aside for other sponsors in order to help advance the bill, he did so without any hesitation whatsoever. That’s someone who will never get much public credit but deserves it. The late Sen. Gwendolyn Britt similarly sponsored the bill in the Senate until she passed.

I do want to thank two straight African-American men for their incredibly helpful support: President Barack Obama and the late former NAACP President Julian Bond. President Obama’s timely evolution on the issue in advance of his own 2012 reelection bid created a critical and noticeable bump in the polls among African-American voters. When I asked Julian Bond if he’d be willing to appear in pro-marriage ads (he had the office next door to me at AU), he said yes immediately. I’ve also never seen anyone look so embarrassed when I thanked him in his office just before I got legally married.

Back to pride for a moment. If Ben Jealous wants to spout quotes on pride at me, he might think on another one before claiming credit for being the critical person in a long-term effort of someone else’s civil rights movement: “Pride goeth before a fall.”


Republicans Still Angry Marriage is Legal and Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples Isn’t

As I pointed out not long ago, Republican Del. Richard Metzger is still on the anti-same-sex marriage hobby horse and sponsoring a bill designed to allow discrimination against same-sex couples under a bogus claim of protecting religious freedom.

Governor Hogan responded weakly, with his office saying that he would wait for the legislative process to proceed. Contrast this lack of backbone to stand up for established law and actual Marylanders with his willingness to oppose Syrian refugees–an issue on which he has zero power. A real profile in courage.

Wrong on the Basic Facts

Red Maryland, however, has not been silent. A pity, as their post contained a real whopper:

2012’s Question 6, which was supported by Maryland Democrats and current Republican Senate candidate Chrys Kefalas, contained not a single provision protecting the religious liberties of any Marylanders.

Has Brian Griffiths read the legislation to which he linked?

Section 2 reads:

SECTION 2. AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That an official of a religious order or body authorized by the rules and customs of that order or body to perform a marriage ceremony may not be required to solemnize or officiate any particular marriage or religious rite of any marriage in violation of the right to free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by the Maryland Constitution and Maryland Declaration of Rights. Each religious organization, association, or society has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine, policy teachings, and beliefs regarding who may marry within that faith. An official of a religious order or body authorized to join individuals in marriage under §406(a)(2)(i) of the Family Law Article and who fails or refuses to join individuals in marriage is not subject to any fine or other penalty for the failure or refusal.

Section 3 and Section 4 are also about religious protection:


(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious organization, association, or society, may not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to an individual if the request for the services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges is related to: (1) the solemnization of a marriage or celebration of a marriage that is in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs; or (2) the promotion of marriage through any social or religious programs or services, in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs, unless State or federal funds are received for that specific program or service.

(b) A refusal by an entity described in subsection (a) of this section, or of any individual who is employed by an entity described in subsection (a) of this section, to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges in accordance with subsection (a) of this section may not create a civil claim or cause of action or result in any State action to penalize, withhold benefits from, or discriminate against the entity or individual.

Of course, all of these provisions are redundant of the Constitution’s protections of religious freedom but were included to assuage concerns nonetheless. Red Maryland also neglects to mention that marriage equality expanded religious liberty by finally permitting religions that want to conduct legal same-sex marriages to do so. Yep, many religious people are pro-same-sex marriage.

I hope that Red Maryland corrects the record and apologizes to Republican Chrys Kafalas for their inaccurate claim in their slam against him for showing the content of his character by standing up courageously for religious freedom and his own civil liberties. Chrys demonstrated what used to be called leadership in the pre-Trump Republican Party. But I’m not holding my breath.

The Republican Discrimination Agenda

Red Maryland describes Metzger’s bill as follows:

Basically, the law is designed to ensure that religious organizations that have a moral objection to gay marriage don’t have to be forced to participate in one. You would think that this would be a basic common sense idea, that religious individuals would not be forced to officiate or participate in a same-sex marriage.

Not one rabbi, priest, minister, imam etc. has been forced to officiate a single same-sex marriage against their will in any place in the nation. Not one. So let’s put that red herring to bed.

Instead, the bill is designed to protect the likes of Kim Davis, who as a public official has a duty to issue marriage certificates that are now perfectly, but she finds repugnant. Where does this end? Religious beliefs are personal and vary endlessly. Can people like Kim Davis refuse to issue marriage certificates to mixed race couples if it offends their religious beliefs? What about divorced couples? Or to people who have committed adultery?

The idea of not forcing religious individuals to participate in same-sex marriage is equally broad. Should Holy Cross or Adventist Hospital be able to prohibit a same-sex spouse from being with their spouse or making medical decisions if needed on the grounds that it would force a religious organization to “participate in marriage” as described by Brian Griffiths.

This is not a religious freedom agenda. This is an effort to roll back anti-discrimination protections for lesbians and gay than have been established law in this State since 2001 with no problems not withstanding the howls from the right. Red Maryland thinks that the reality of same-sex marriage is a good excuse to change this.

Again, where does it end? If you follow the logic, anyone can discriminate against anyone on religious grounds because religious beliefs are inherently personal. It would be the undoing of all anti-discrimination law, which is the point.

In our daily lives, we all have to rub up and deal with lots of people who live their lives differently than we choose. As it turns out, the people of Maryland and the First Amendment are managing just fine without this legislation. Marylanders understand that it takes all kinds to make a world and are not such special snowflakes that they need protection beyond the boundaries enshrined already in law and the Constitution against the reality of same-sex marriage. After all, they voted for it.


Republicans Still on the Anti-Same Sex Marriage Train

Baltimore County Delegate Richard Metzgar (R-6) has pre-filed a bill that would allow discrimination against same-sex couples–or just about any sort of couple–in the name of religious freedom:

The key section of the cookie-cutter legislation is almost identical to a bill that has been filed in Virginia. While in the guise of protecting “religious freedom,” the bill is cast so broadly that it would allow broad discrimination in public accommodations. For example, hospitals operated by religious institutions could refuse to allow husbands or wives of same-sex couples to visit their spouses as a “privilege” related to marriage.

As should be well known, there is no need to pass legislation to protect religious institutions from having to perform marriages they oppose–a widely-respected right protected by the Constitution and Maryland law. Del. Metzgar is either hysterical on this issue or hopes to broaden the right to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Indeed, this extreme legislation would override the state’s law against discrimination in public accommodations, which covered gays and lesbians long before the State legislated same-sex marriage and then upheld it in a referendum. Moreover, it also would allow discrimination against interracial couples on religious grounds, so same-sex couples may be the target but not the only victims.

What Will Hogan Do?

After having opposed same-sex marriage during the referendum, Hogan claimed to have “evolved” and to desire to downplay these issues during the campaign:

“They have no part in this campaign whatsoever,” he said. “We’ve been completely focused on the issues that all Marylanders are focused on right now, and that’s economic issues.”
 After his election, the Governor’s spokesman went even further:

“We’re opposed to discrimination — all forms of discrimination,” Hogan spokesman Matt Clark said Friday regarding the governor’s position.

So now that Hogan is on board with opposition to discrimination against same-sex couples, will he take a strong stand against Metzgar’s bill as unnecessary and divisive? Or will the leading force of the Maryland Republican Party stand silent in the face of continued efforts by members of his party to fight to allow discrimination?


So More on Hogan and Marriage Equality

Normally, I don’t like to multi-post on the same story on the same day unless there is breaking news but this story seems worth an exception. Early this morning, I posted a story stating that GOP Gov Candidate Larry Hogan had changed his position on marriage equality after the primary. It turns out that was incorrect: he opposed trying to overturn the will of the people.

However, there is really more to the story than that simple narrative that the Hogan campaign would like to propagate. Hogan has no clear public position on the core issue. In response to the Baltimore Sun, he refused to state whether he personally supports marriage equality legislation, sidestepping the question by neatly saying that the referendum decided the matter. Elsewhere, he has stated that he “was” a supporter of “traditional marriage” and supported civil unions for same-sex couples but also would not state how he voted in the referendum.

Politically sensible as I outlined earlier but not exactly a profile in courage–and there were Republicans willing to take a stand in favor of marriage equality in the legislature.

And it also obfuscates the well-known truth in the halls of Annapolis that many Republican legislators don’t give a whit whether same-sex couples can marry and that many who voted against it actually personally favored the legislation (and knew marriage equality was an inevitability) but feared their primary election constituency.

Though I welcome Hogan’s desire to place his focus elsewhere, the dissimulation by Republicans like Hogan who seek to be viable statewide on their personal beliefs is a bit wearying–and must be even more so for him as he will have to continue to adjust his position with rapidly changing public opinion. It also seems fair to ask how someone who refuses to say how he voted on a key issue is going to lead the State on others in the future.


Error in Hogan Story

The previous story indicated that Hogan had changed his position on marriage equality after the primary based on recent stories in the press that indicated that Hogan’s position was new. RedMaryland kindly pointed out that I was wrong on this one. While Hogan certainly did not advertise his position, he took his position against fighting the law since it was approved by the people in the referendum before the Republican primary. I hate not getting it right as much as the next guy, so have changed the story to be more accurate.


Hogan Evolves on Marriage Equality

Republican Gubernatorial Nominee Larry Hogan let it be known first to the Washington Post and then to News Channel 8 that he wants to take marriage equality off the table in this year’s election:

Hogan said on News Talk with Bruce DePuyt on News Channel 8 in response to a question about whether he voted for the state’s same-sex marriage law in a 2012 referendum on it that he was “originally for civil unions.”

“I was a supporter of traditional marriage,” he told DePuyt. “It’s an issue that I fully understand. The voters have made their decision. I support their decision and will uphold the law. I’ve evolved I guess on the issue.”

Hogan said marriage rights for same-sex couples, extending in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants and other social issues “are really decided in Maryland.”

“They have no part in this campaign whatsoever,” he said. “We’ve been completely focused on the issues that all Marylanders are focused on right now, and that’s economic issues.”

A good decision politically–not to mention morally. The social issues like marriage equality are dead losers for Republicans in Maryland. When the focus is on them, they don’t even get a chance to get off the ground. And opinions on marriage have continued to move rapidly in the two years since Marylanders approved it at the ballot box.

(Note: The previous version of this story indicated that Hogan had changed his position after the primary based on recent stories in the press that indicated that Hogan’s position was new. RedMaryland kindly pointed out that I was wrong on this one. While Hogan certainly did not advertise his position, he took his position against fighting the law before the Republican primary. I hate not getting it right as much as the next guy, so have changed the story to be more accurate.)



Achieving Marriage Equality in Maryland

marriage winElection Night 2012

In a blog post today, Andrew Sullivan hails Freedom to Marry and attacks the Human Rights Campaign for their respective roles in the national fight for marriage equality. I’m not going to do the traditional snip from his post because you need to read the full argument to really do it justice and it’s made in the context of a scathing book review.

I have no interest in defending the book (haven’t read it, don’t plan to) in this post or the overall record of either F2M or HRC. But the record needs correction in terms of the roles that each organization played here in Maryland if only to show that the overall picture is far more nuanced than Andrew presents. I was President of Equality Maryland at the time and in a reasonable position to know much of the background, so here goes.

Freedom to Marry was a barrier to progress in Maryland. Its leader, Evan Wolfson, had absolutely no faith in our ability to win a referendum. Even after President Obama endorsed marriage equality and polls showed that support increased further in our state–strongly Democratic and with a large share of African-American voters–Evan still remained adamantly opposed.

Not only did Evan refuse to invest in Maryland but his gatekeeper role with major donors made it much harder to raise the needed funds (note: I am not the anonymous source in the linked article). Even more galling, F2M continued to send fundraising emails into Maryland but never mentioned its unwillingness to get behind the referendum effort.

In contrast, HRC played an absolutely essential role here in Maryland, providing money and people vital to support our media and organizational efforts. I know it’s not Andrew’s favorite group (understatement) but its critical role in Maryland should be acknowledged and applauded.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley also raised money and provided real leadership in the State. Of course, Equality Maryland had worked hard on this issue for a very long time and focused its efforts and resources virtually entirely on the referendum fight. Many others, such as the Maryland’s wonderful and large LGBT Caucus, the ACLU, NAACP, Latino organizations, and the unions also lent welcome and necessary support. It was a team effort.

marriage win2

We were all so happy and proud that night in 2012 when Maryland became the very first state to uphold marriage equality at the ballot box. I know Evan played a wonderfully positive role in other states and, more importantly, in building up organizational support for the overall movement. In short, he’s done a lot of good work.

But we won marriage in Maryland in spite of him.