Delegate uses personal story to back gay partnerships

Democrat comes out while supporting registry

General Assembly

March 05, 2004|By Kimberly A.C. Wilson | Kimberly A.C. Wilson,SUN STAFF

During a hearing on a bill that would create a domestic partnership registry for gay couples and any two people living together who are 62 or older, a state legislator used her own story in support of the measure.

"I want to choose the person who will make medical decisions on my behalf," Del. Anne R. Kaiser, a Montgomery County Democrat, told members of the House Health and Government Operations Committee. "Unfortunately for me -- and thousands of gay Marylanders like me -- that choice is not currently a fundamental right offered in Maryland's law. Because same-sex unions are not legally recognized in Maryland, my partner would not be empowered to make medical decisions on my behalf."

Kaiser, at 36 the youngest female elected member of the House of Delegates, becomes the third openly gay legislator, after fellow Montgomery County Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. and Del. Maggie L. McIntosh of Baltimore.

"It just seemed like it was time to stand up for this," Kaiser said after the hearing, into which her family, friends and rabbi packed seats. "It was an opportunity to put a human face on the issue. It's a human issue. It's a civil rights issue."

Since the start of the 2004 General Assembly, the topics of gay marriage and gay rights have dominated much of the discourse around the State House. Bills in the House and Senate would reaffirm that the state recognizes only male-female marriages, alter the constitution to say as much, and render invalid any foreign or out-of-state marriage license issued to a same-sex couple.

For the past 31 years, Maryland law has defined marriage as between a man and woman. But the state is one of a dozen without specific bans on recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, making Maryland a potential target for legal challenges to demand acknowledgment of same-sex couples.

Among the provisions in the 19-page bill that Kaiser testified in favor of is a paragraph that appeared to some opponents to offer recognition of gay couples married elsewhere.

It says, "A domestic partnership or civil union entered into outside this state, that is valid under the laws of the jurisdiction under which the domestic partnership or civil union was entered into, shall be treated as a domestic partnership in this state. The registration of a domestic partnership by two individuals who are also married to each other in another state may not be considered evidence, knowledge, awareness, or an admission that the domestic partners are not lawfully married."

Laura Clark, a homemaker who testified against the bill, said gay couples should not have state sanctioning.

"The minority is forcing its values on the majority that doesn't support it and without giving the majority its voice to vote on it," she said.

Yesterday's action

COMPUTER RECYCLING: A bill that would encourage the recycling of discarded computers passed the House by a vote of 137-0 and moves on to the Senate. The bill, by Del. Dan K. Morhaim a Baltimore County Democrat, would require retailers, manufacturers and government agencies to put in place a comprehensive plan, including a funding mechanism, for computer recycling by 2006. Computers contain hazardous materials including lead and cadmium that often end up in landfills and incinerators.

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