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Breaking Ranks

The Republican effort to usher a constitutional ban on gay marriage onto the House floor for debate last week was short-circuited by the Democratic leadership before Minority Whip Anthony J. O'Donnell had a chance to deliver it.

O'Donnell vowed to keep the document a secret, so as not to put the Democrats who signed at risk of retribution.
But secrets are hard to keep in Annapolis, and by the end of the week, the document leaked out, exposing the names of all who volunteered, were cajoled, or in one instance buffaloed, into providing the signatures needed to enable Republicans to offer it.

Petitioning a bill out of committee is no ordinary event in Annapolis. It's an exceedingly rare procedural tactic. To do it, the Republicans needed the signatures of 47 House members. There are 43 Republicans in the House, so they needed to round up four Democrats.

The four who crossed party lines were: Theodore J. Sophocleus and Joan Cadden, both of Anne Arundel, Rosetta C. Parker (Prince George's) and Kevin Kelly (Allegany). All signed near the bottom of the petition.

After they were exposed, only Parker disavowed any partisan disloyalty. She rose on the floor of the House on Friday to tell members she had no idea what she was signing. She said the person who approached her didn't explain what it was.

There was another surprise on the list. The second to last to sign was Del. Jean Cryor, the lone Republican from Mongtomery County. Cryor said not to interpret her late signature as a sign of wavering.

"There's no big deal about that," she said. "I just hadn't been to an earlier meeting."

Cryor went on to explain that her signature on the petition was not a sign of support for the constitutional amendment, but rather a show of support for allowing the debate to go forward.

"I made it very clear that I'd be voting against the bill, but I was willing to have the discussion," said Cryor. "The bill was too sweeping, too far reaching and it became an anti-rights bill as opposed to a pro-marriage bill."

And when the Republicans sought her support for a second procedural move to revive the bill, she switched sides and became the lone Republican to break ranks.

Matt Mosk and Ann Marimow

By Phyllis Jordan  |  February 4, 2006; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly  
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