Maryland Marriage Bill Gets Boost as Wavering Delegate Renews Support

UPDATE 2:30 PM: The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill 12 to 10, after an unsuccessful attempt to add a civil union amendment by Del. Alston.

A House committee vote on the marriage bill in the Maryland House is likely to come very soon. It has been a long journey, but we are almost there. A recent bump in the road came from Delegate Sam Arora – he's a co-sponsor of the bill and campaigned on the freedom to marry. In the past few days he apparently backed off his support for the bill – but that rightly triggered an outpouring of response from marriage supporters, and that seems to have worked. In a statement released this morning, Arora said:

I have heard from constituents, friends, and advocates from across the spectrum of views and have thought about the issue of same-sex marriage extensively. I understand their concern – this is a very serious issue, and one that many people feel passionately about. As the vote drew nearer, I wrestled with this issue in a way I never had before, which led me to realize that I had some concerns about the bill. While I personally believe that Maryland should extend civil rights to same-sex couples through civil unions, I have come to the conclusion that this issue has such impact on the people of Maryland that they should have a direct say. I will vote to send the bill to the floor because it deserves an up-or-down vote. On the floor, I will vote to send the bill to the governor so that Marylanders can ultimately decide this issue at the polls. I think that is appropriate.

If the marriage bill becomes law, about 55,000 people would have to sign a petition to put the issue to a referendum – but a majority of Marylanders support the freedom to marry.

Another co-sponsor of the bill, Delegate Tiffany Alston, expressed doubts this week as well, although later released a statement strongly suggesting that she would in fact vote for the bill. She seems genuinely torn on the issue, but she told The Washington Post, "That right to pursue happiness, that human right to marry who you love, that's what our soldiers are dying for." It's hard to see how she could vote against that, even if many of her constituents are opposed. Indeed, it is in situations like this when leaders must lead.