The Maryland House passed a marriage equality bill yesterday that the governor of Maryland has promised to sign - if it reaches his desk. Now the bill goes to the Senate. Here's the statement by the Human Rights Campaign, which has been involved in helping get the bill passed:
In a historic move, the Maryland House of Delegates today approved marriage equality legislation introduced by Governor Martin O'Malley (D) that would allow committed gay and lesbian couples to marry. The next stop for the legislation is a vote in the State Senate. Last year, the same-sex marriage bill died on the House floor; a vote was not taken.
"We could not be more grateful to the Delegates who today voted to make all Maryland families stronger," said Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign. "Today, we took a giant step toward marriage equality becoming law - and we are in this position due to the unwavering leadership and resolve of Governor O'Malley, Speaker Busch and our legislative allies."
The Civil Marriage Protection Act allows committed gay and lesbian couples to obtain a marriage license while providing religious exemptions for churches and other religious institutions. Clergy, for example, do not have to perform any marriage they do not agree with. The bill protects religious liberty.
The Human Rights Campaign has committed extensive resources to the Maryland effort, including helping to create Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the broad-based coalition made up of labor, faith, civil liberties, and LGBT organizations. HRC provided the campaign's senior staff and spearheaded the field, communications, and faith components of the coalition effort.
Today's legislative win for marriage equality comes at a historic moment: in the past two weeks, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled California's discriminatory Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional; Governor Christine Gregoire signed marriage equality into law in Washington State; and a marriage bill passed the New Jersey legislature yesterday. Six states and the District of Columbia recognize marriage equality, with Washington State's law set to go into effect in three months.
A breakdown of HRC's engagement in Maryland after the break.
- HRC helped establish the Marylanders for Marriage Equality that includes primary partners 1199 SEIU, Progressive Maryland, Equality Maryland, and the ACLU of Maryland. Additional coalition partners, including the NAACP-Baltimore, can be found here.
- We provided senior staff to the coalition, including the campaign manager (Sultan Shakir), field director (Travis Tazelaar), communications director (Kevin Nix), faith outreach director (MacArthur Flournoy) and coalition director (David Turley).
- HRC hired the lobbying firms of Alexander & Cleaver and Harris Jones & Malone and commissioned public opinion polls by Hart Research on attitudes toward marriage equality in Maryland.
HRC spearheaded the grassroots effort, which generated the following constituent communications (all numbers approximate):
- 15,000 post cards filled out by constituents and delivered to legislators
- 18,000 emails to legislators, plus another 800 thanking Governor O'Malley
- 130 phone banks statewide
- 16,000 phone calls into legislator offices
HRC kept a continuous drumbeat going in the press as to why lawmakers should pass the bill. We paid particular attention to cultivating the most effective spokespeople living in key parts of the state.
- On behalf of the coalition, HRC produced 15 web ads featuring prominent voices and everyday Marylanders who spoke about commitment and family. Governor O'Malley kicked off the video series, followed by the Baltimore Mayor, 1199 SEIU's Ezekiel Jackson, actor Mo'Nique, supportive clergy, civil rights legends Rev. Al Sharpton and NAACP Chairman Emeritus Julian Bond, and impacted couples who live in Baltimore and Prince George's County.
- HRC helped execute three notable press conferences: the coalition's launch, the Governor's bill introduction, and a clergy call.
Along with Maryland Faith for Equality, HRC worked to engage clergy in the conversation of marriage equality and worked to get their support of the bill. Activities included:
- Played an instrumental role in securing support of Rev. Dr. Delman Coates and Rev. Guy Molock, as well as other prominent faith leaders in the state.
- Organized nearly 100 clergy for a prayer breakfast and press conference.
- Mobilizing more than 75 congregations and religious bodies.
- Organizing a prayer breakfast and Lobby Day in Annapolis.
- Collecting over 110 handwritten letters and 750 postcards from people of faith.