Capital Notebook

Capital Notebook

March 01, 2006

New amendment proposed to ban same-sex marriage

Republicans in the Maryland legislature refuse to abandon their quest for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. They introduced a new proposal yesterday despite the defeat of an earlier draft.

Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, the Republican whip from Southern Maryland, drew up a new amendment that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman and adds that people of both sexes have equality under the law. O'Donnell's amendment would not forbid civil unions.

"This is a very different approach" than an earlier amendment that failed in committee, O'Donnell said.

Several Republican lawmakers pushed for an amendment on gay marriage after a Baltimore judge ruled in January that the state law banning same-sex unions is unconstitutional. Baltimore Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock stayed her decision, which is being appealed. But the ruling increased calls for a constitutional amendment that would shield the ban from being overturned by a judge.

More than a month after the ruling, though, the GOP has had little luck getting gay marriage up for voter approval this fall. An amendment proposed earlier in the House failed to reach the full body. A mirror amendment in the Senate has been withdrawn by its Republican sponsor.

Democratic House Speaker Michael E. Busch said yesterday that the latest attempt won't fare any better. He predicted that O'Donnell's newest proposal would fail.

"I think the committee took a vote and expressed their view," Busch said.

Associated Press

Image-conscious state Senate rejects crime-victim plate

The Maryland Senate has quashed a plan to create decorative license plates supporting crime victims, amid concerns that the tags would make Maryland look dangerous.

"In terms of making the state look bad, I think it's going in the wrong direction," said Sen. Delores G. Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat.

The bill would have authorized a commemorative plate to promote awareness of crime victims. The Maryland Victims' Resource Center would get $10 from each of the $25 plates sold.

While the Senate's Judicial Proceedings committee approved the legislation, the full chamber rejected it Monday night in a 25-22 vote.

Though the idea of a victims plate clearly conjured up violent images in some senators' minds, officials behind the project said the plate, prototypes of which were designed by students at the Calvert Career Center in Prince Frederick, would be innocuous.

Designs for the plate, one of which the Motor Vehicle Administration would ultimately have had to approve, mainly feature purple-colored hearts and note the resource center's 25th anniversary.

"I don't think they would be objectionable to anybody," said a disappointed Russell Butler, executive director of the Maryland Victims' Resource Center. "The point here is not that there are a lot of crime victims in Maryland but that Maryland cares about its victims."

The bill's twin in the House has a hearing set for next week, but with the Senate defeat, it's almost certain that the companion measure will die.

The state offers commemorative plates featuring Maryland agriculture and the Chesapeake Bay. Lawmakers have tried for several years to create more plates, and this year a bill is pending that would introduce a plate honoring the mountains.

Jill Rosen

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