Two record setting sieges are over. Another delayed. So how come the forecast is bright?
Maryland may have had its fill of snow, but its LGBT advocates can't wait to push an aggressive equality agenda to the General Assembly in 2010.
Last week HB 90 the anti-same-sex marriage bill sponsored by Delegate Emmett Burns of Baltimore was defeated. 20 same-sex marriage supporters offered compelling testimony on behalf of equality. The opposition countered with 4 on the merits of discrimination.
"Anybody can love whoever they want to love, but that doesn't rise to the status of marriage," remarked Burns.
The House Judiciary Committee disagreed, voting 12-8 in favor of equality.
We Cannot Cede the High Ground
Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Executive Director of Equality Maryland regards HB 90 as a double-edge threat to marriage equality. Policy that would have prevented future same-sex marriage in-state and denied recognition of same-sex marriages performed outside Maryland.
"This proposed bill not only created statutory regulations around marriage, but it went a step further to declare that same-sex marriage would be against Maryland policy. So for many reasons we needed to stop this bill."
The Executive Director said Burns' legislative proposal was a pre-emptive end run around the long-awaited opinion on same-sex marriage recognition by the state's Attorney General, Doug Gansler.
The AG's ruling is expected before spring.
Delegate Burns had brashly stumped from Baltimore to Annapolis, spinning rhetoric of untruth aimed to appeal to conservative constituents. "Same sex marriages are bad economic policy, bad educational policy, just bad policy."
Meneses-Sheets countered, "When he says it's bad economic policy, in fact, Equality Maryland has all kinds of reports, surveys, polls and studies. There's a Williams Institute Report that talks about how extending marriage rights would actually reduce Maryland expenses.
So that's something that can be literally countered with fact. Not that it's going to stop him from saying it. He doesn't say it because he believes it's true. He says it because he thinks that will move people."
Delegate Burns is the Baptist minister turned social conservative politician. This was the third time since taking office in 1995 that he's preached discriminatory legislation designed to prohibit recognition of same-sex marriage on any level in Maryland.
Three swings, three misses, one big out in favor of Maryland same-sex equality.
"Some particular clergy may use the power of the pulpit to speak against our families," remarked Meneses-Sheets, "but many are working not only within their churches but within their communities to support our families, to support equal protections."
Faith-based advocacy is a sleeping giant, long ignored by LGBT grass-roots coalitions, but a linchpin of the social conservative movement.
Meneses-Sheets underscored that building a grass-roots, faith-based coalition would be a high priority on Equality Maryland's 2010 agenda. "For too long we've assumed that churches aren't going to be on our side. So we haven't tried to engage them and that's been to our own disservice."
There are people of faith and with faith throughout the state of Maryland and throughout this Country who absolutely believe in equality. And so we cannot cede the moral high ground to our opponents."
One Siege Down, Then Another. One to Go.
LGBT Maryland barely caught its collective breath before its next siege struck---the Blizzard of 2010.
Last weekend residents and public service workers alike pushed 30" of snow from streets, sidewalks and driveways. "Snow-Mageddon" laid siege to the Free State, cutting power, stranding travelers, closing roads and crippling business.
On Monday, LGBT Lobby Day in Annapolis was postponed. Equality Maryland, the event sponsor, has re-scheduled the mega, political-action event for February 22nd, still early in the 2010 General Assembly.
Like a snowball generating speed downhill Equality Maryland aims to build sweeping legislative momentum---awareness & consensus building, if not lawmaking action in an election year-- on the heels of its hard fought victory over HB 90.
Upwards of 500 supporters are expected to attend the grass roots, constituency-rallying event. A keynote speech will be delivered at 5pm on Lawyer's Mall from Mara Keisling, Executive Director of NCTE.
The 2010 legislative agenda for Equality Maryland once again includes advocating civil marriage and anti-discrimination legislation.
Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act would allow two people, regardless of their gender, to marry.
Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act would prohibit discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, credit and public accommodations.
Other target legislation is the Medical Leave Act and DeFacto Parent.
No rest for the weary, it's back to pushing snow. "Snow-Mageddon II" struck Wednesday, a whirling dervish of a blizzard, dumping another 17" on the greater Baltimore area. The season total now stands at a record setting 80 inches. That's a full 5 FEET, 2 INCHES more than the region's average annual snowfall.
The unrelenting siege of snow may have taken a toll on the Mid-Atlantic. LGBT Maryland, on the other hand, remains undaunted.
There's an agenda on the horizon. Time to roll up the sleeves and make way for the next push toward equality.
El Nino, global warming and victory over discrimination: Who would've ever believed?
Certainly not the conservatives.