Committee rejects Gansler impeachment effort

March 31, 2010|By Julie Bykowicz and Annie Linskey | Baltimore Sun reporters

A Maryland House of Delegates committee on Wednesday rejected a Republican lawmaker's attempt to impeach the Maryland attorney general over a controversial opinion he recently issued on same-sex marriage.

Del. Don H. Dwyer Jr. of Anne Arundel County had asked his fellow delegates to initiate the impeachment process for Douglas F. Gansler, a Democrat, who said Maryland should recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state. Dwyer believed Gansler wrongly overturned state policy on such unions.

The House Judiciary Committee batted down Dwyer's attempt, voting 15-to-5 that Gansler's conduct did not merit impeachment proceedings. Del. Susan McComas, a Harford County Republican, joined the Democrats on the committee in opposing impeachment. The chairman abstained from voting, and one member was absent.

"People shouldn't be tarred and feathered and hung out to dry," said Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons, a Montgomery County Democrat. "If you don't like his opinion, take it to the ballot box."

Wednesday morning, Dwyer introduced articles of impeachment to the 141-member chamber, but House Speaker Michael E. Busch, an Anne Arundel Democrat, quickly pushed the issue to the House Judiciary Committee, a 22-member panel that includes Dwyer.

Busch's move sparked a lively debate on the House floor, with Dwyer's sometimes-shouted argument that the articles held a special status and procedurally should be voted on by the body drawing. He drew cheers from supporters who sat above the chamber in a gallery.

Delegates voted 101 to 39 on a procedural motion to send the impeachment articles to the Judiciary Committee.

A spokeswoman for Busch had previously said that the Dwyer's resolution likely was out of order, but Busch allowed it to be offered. "I felt it was important for the integrity of the House," he said.

But Dwyer and other Republicans said Busch corrupted the process by not allowing a full-chamber vote. In the committee, Dwyer refused to speak about the merits of his impeachment articles, saying that to do so would "validate" what he called a "kangaroo court."

"I'm not going to continue to move forward in this charade," Dwyer said before leaving the witness table.

Dwyer also objected to the committee not allowing the public to testify at the hearing but limiting discussion to delegates. Judiciary Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr., a Calvert County and Prince George's County Democrat, ordered a brief recess. Delegates returned after about 20 minutes and rejected Dwyer's measure.

Baltimore Sun reporter Annie Linskey contributed to this article.

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