Political notebook: Same-sex marriage debate fuels delegation hearing

Democrats gear up to support Obama

February 24, 2011|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

The debate over legislation to allow same-sex marriage brought dozens of critics and supporters to Ellicott City on Wednesday night for the annual public hearing on statewide issues held by Howard County's legislative delegation.

All three of the county's state senators and one of the county's eight delegates missed the session, however, because of pressing legislative business in Annapolis, according to delegation chairwoman Del. Elizabeth Bobo.

Republican Sen. Allan H. Kittleman had surprised his fellow party members by endorsing the bill allowing same-sex marriage in Maryland, but that didn't discourage GOP Central Committee member David L. Bates from blasting the bill in the strongest terms, as his wife, Republican Del. Gail H. Bates, listened.

"Only when nations enter into a phase of decay and decline has homosexuality become acceptable," Bates said as part of testimony that listed what he called seven "myths" about homosexuality. They include, he said that "homosexuals are born that way and hence should have civil rights," that "biblical morality should be excluded from the law" and that "homosexuality is harmless to society." Bates said that "as a Christian, I believe God will forgive any sin." The Bible condemns homosexuality, he said, quoting chapter and verse.

Those arguments were countered by members of PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, who were strongly represented among the roughly 100 people who attended. Dan McCarthy of Columbia argued that more than half the marriages in Howard County are civil and not religious, and that everyone needs a civil marriage license anyway.

"If we base marriage on a religious viewpoint, we trample on somebody's religious freedom," McCarthy said. "that's wrong. That's un-American. We Marylanders are better than that." Dozens of people stood to express support for his view.

"Imagine if you were told you could not marry the person you love," said Heath Goisovich, 31.

Several speakers also supported legislation that seeks to protect the rights of transgender people.

Others topics under discussion included offshore wind farm legislation, immigration and right-to-work issues, and state support for private schools.

Steve Bourg said he is an actuary and urged changes to public employees' pensions and benefits. "It will not help one bit to change this for future hires," he warned, because it would take at least a decade to begin seeing savings.

Chris Oxenham attacked a bill designed to allow the children of illegal immigrants to attend college in Maryland at the lower, in-state tuition rates.

"This is an absolutely despicable bill," said the 25-year old College Park graduate. "It's absolutely a slap in the face to taxpayers."

Ken Stevens, a regular at the yearly hearings, spoke in favor of a long list of causes, including elimination of $4.4 million in state support to private schools, abolishing scholarships controlled by elected officials, repeal of the death penalty, higher income taxes on the wealthy and more gun controls.

Michael Lazarus railed against the loss of freedom entailed in offshore wind turbines. It's wrong, he said "to force electricity suppliers to contract with offshore [wind] suppliers." Dr. Eric G. Naumburg, a pediatrician, advocated for a bill co-sponsored by three Howard delegates, Guy Guzzone, Frank Turner and Bobo, all Democrats, to create a single-payer health care system in Maryland.

David Yungmann criticized unions and Sheri Thomas came to plead for support for higher alcohol taxes to raise money for programs for people with disabilities. The meeting lasted from 7:30 until 10 p.m. The General Assembly session is one-third complete, with major issues involving the budget, spending and most of the issues speakers raised still in doubt.

Dems organizing for 2012

Howard County Democrats are preparing for next year's federal elections, in which Republicans will be trying to unseat President Barack Obama along with Howard's two Democratic representatives, Elijah Cummings and John Sarbanes — plus Democratic U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin.

At an annual party fundraiser at the Ellicott City home of Erum and Irfan Malik Sunday, party chairman Michael McPherson and Cummings made clear the task for the roughly 50 party faithful who attended.

"There are groups who think this last election they got a mandate to turn the country back 100 years," McPherson told the crowd. "This highlights the beginning of our push to move into the next year."

Cummings, who arrived a bit late from a larger Democratic gathering in Montgomery County, said he was surprised at the size and enthusiasm of that group. "There were close to 200 people, and they were pumped up," he said.

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