Petition calls on Mikulski to back same-sex marriage bill

Author: Benjamin Ford
Publication Date: August 26th, 2011

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A petition with more than 3,000 signatures is expected to be delivered today to the office of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, urging her to sign on as a co-sponsor of a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

A coalition of same-sex rights groups — the Courage Campaign, Freedom to Marry and Equality Maryland — formed to encourage Mikulski (D) to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, which Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sponsored.

“She’s looking very closely at the Feinstein bill,” said Mikulski’s spokeswoman Rachel MacKnight. She did not say why Mikulski has not sponsored the legislation to date.

The Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton and defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Also under the legislation, no states were required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Feinstein’s bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, and the federal government would recognize same-sex marriages. States would not be required to recognize the marriages or to perform them.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) of Baltimore signed on as a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act legislation in July.

“I will continue to work to protect the civil rights of all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation,” he said in an emailed statement. “Government should not interfere in the ability of men and women to marry the person of their choice — the person they love. Gay and lesbian couples should be entitled to the same benefits as heterosexual couples, including tax benefits, rights of inheritance, health insurance, and, of course, marriage.”


The House version of the bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. John Sarbanes (Dist. 3) of Towson, Donna Edwards (Dist. 4) of Fort Washington, Steny H. Hoyer (Dist. 5) of Mechanicsville and Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (Dist. 8) of Kensington.

With support for marriage equality high in Maryland, it was thought Mikulski would be willing either to support the Respect for Marriage Act or to sign on as a co-sponsor, said Rick Jacobs, founder and director of the national Courage Campaign, which advocates on gay issues.

“With the direction Maryland is moving and with her being a leader among Democrats, it’s really important to have her on board,” he said.

A bill to legalize marriage for same-sex couples in Maryland failed in the last legislative session, but Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) announced last month that he would advocate for the issue in the next session, which begins in January. Maryland recognizes same-sex marriages from other states.