Former Ehrlich official: Same-sex marriage is consistent with conservative values

February 08, 2011|By Chrysovalantis P. Kefalas

The following testimony is scheduled to be delivered by the former deputy counsel to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. at a hearing of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee today on Senate Bill 116, which would legalize gay marriage in Maryland.

Mr. Chairman: I appreciate the opportunity to appear here today and testify about a bill that I regard as extremely important. Senate Bill 116 will bring full civil marriage freedom to Maryland and move our state closer to realizing the promises of the Declaration.

As you and many members of the committee will recall, I previously served as Deputy Legal Counsel to Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. In this role, I administered the Governor's Executive Clemency initiative, advised the Governor on more clemency petitions than any other attorney on his staff, lobbied for passage of his anti-witness intimidation reforms, defended the Governor during the legislative investigation into his personnel practices, and, of course, provided counsel on issues of constitutional law and criminal justice. In short, I dealt with some of the most important issues Governor Ehrlich addressed during his tenure: liberty, freedom, and justice. And these are the issues at stake with your consideration of Senate Bill 116.

Governor Ehrlich stated clearly his opposition to civil marriage freedom during his campaign for governor, and I do not purport to speak for him here. While I respect and agree with him on so many issues and respect the religious convictions of those opposed to same-sex marriage, as a conservative Republican, I believe history, law, reason, and experience will discredit opposition to civil marriage freedom. The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that marriage is one of the most fundamental civil rights that we have as Americans under our Constitution. As Theodore Olson, former United States Solicitor General under President George W. Bush and Assistant Attorney General in the Reagan Administration, emphasized:

"It is an expression of our desire to create a social partnership, to live and share life's joys and burdens with the person we love, and to form a lasting bond and a social identity. The Supreme Court has said that marriage is a part of the Constitution's protections of liberty, privacy, freedom of association, and spiritual identification. In short, the right to marry helps us to define ourselves and our place in a community. Without it, there can be no true equality under the law."

Denying people a civil right because of the gender of the person they love is inconsistent with the core principles of our Republic and the animating principles — individual liberty, personal freedom, and limited government — that gave rise to a movement and party that I call home. As Barry Goldwater put it, "the Conservative looks upon politics as the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of the social order." Allowing all of our citizens to partake in the state benefits and privileges of civil marriage would do just that.

It is time Maryland lived up to her "free state" designation. It is time you, our representative leaders, rededicated our state "to the proposition that all men are created equal." No longer should our state treat gays and lesbians as second-class citizens. No longer should our state permit discrimination on the basis of an immutable characteristic.

No longer should our state treat same-sex relationships as, in Mr. Olson's words, "less worthy, less sanctioned, or less legitimate."

And I offer this plea to you not simply based on the law and political philosophy, or because of a belief that all lawyers should use the law and their skills to do good, but because of a personal reason too.

Robert F. Kennedy once said, "Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change." I frankly do not profess to possess the "moral courage" that Kennedy described.

The battle for civil rights in his time was more violent and more dangerous. But, today, silence is not an option because equal rights and freedom demand the best and the most of each and every one of us. Like Kennedy, I do not just see a world as it is and ask why, but I see and dream of a world that never was, and ask why not. For the first time, I can see that world so close. I can see that there is fullness of life in this country and state for every man and woman. There is healing on the horizon for tired minds and for overburdened spirits. There is courage in this legislative body to support the Constitution and laws of our nation and our state, without partiality or prejudice, if we only listen, if we lift up our eyes.

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