Personal Stories Matter for Debates, Hearings, and Votes Coming Up in Maryland and Rhode Island

Debate on a marriage bill is set to begin in the Maryland House tomorrow, and a vote could come as soon as Thursday. Many lawmakers have expressed being torn over how to vote, but as a Washington Post article recently showed, hearing directly from constituents and people they know made all the difference for Senators who were facing the same decision.

Sen. James Kittleman (R), who abandoned a civil union bill in favor marriage, said "The folks who had the most influence on me weren't the lobbyists, but the folks from our everyday lives that came to talk to me."

And Sen. James Brochin (D) reversed his opposition to the marriage bill after hearing from gay people like Tim Connor, who has an 11-year old daughter with his partner of more than 20 years.

"It all started to grow on me and have an impact," said Brochin. "These are families, just like my daughter and me. It made me realize the problem with the word 'marriage' may be my own."

In the House, the six openly gay members have sent a letter to their colleagues with a very personal appeal:

 ...We are writing to refocus this debate back to what this bill will actually do. Quite simply, it will secure for our families the protections that marriage – and only marriage – provides to loving and committed couples who have pledged to spend the rest of their lives together.

... Our families need the same protections because we face many of the same challenges. We stretch our paychecks to put food on the table, keep a roof over our children's heads and plan for emergencies. We struggle with the skyrocketing costs of health care, college tuition, and gas for our cars. And though we shoulder many of these same responsibilities, we cannot count on the same kind of safety net should life throw more at us than we can handle.

... Marriage is at its best and most effective during some of life's worst moments. The protections it affords to families are especially crucial when one's spouse is in the back of an ambulance, or rushed into emergency surgery, or dies unexpectedly. For us, as for all of Maryland's families, a marriage license will mean far more than the paper on which it is printed. For us, it means the possibility of shared health insurance, more stable homes for our children, and fewer conversations about legal documents with attorneys. We would never want the responsibility of voting on you and your spouse's will, power of attorney, or advanced medical directive, but you've been put in that position this week for our families. We have faith that when faced with the option, you will vote to allow same-sex couples the opportunity to fulfill the commitments of mutual support and shared responsibility that we have already made to one another and to our children.

...Colleagues, we need you. Please vote yes on Senate Bill 116, the Civil Marriage Protection Act. Vote yes because you know it is the right thing to do. Vote yes because you want to stand on the right side of history. Vote yes because every family in Maryland needs the protections that marriage provides.

If you're a Marylander you can make your own appeal to your representative by clicking here:

http://freedomtomarry.org/page/speakout/MD_Delegates

Rhode Islanders are also about to get a chance to tell their stories to legislators. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing this Thursday on several marriage bills. For information on attending or testifying click here. A House Judiciary Committee vote on a marriage bill could also come Thursday. You can send a message to Rhode Island lawmakers by clicking here:

http://freedomtomarry.org/page/speakout/RhodeIsland2011

Your voice does make a difference!