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Posted at 4:08 PM ET, 03/ 3/2011

Alston exploring civil unions amendment in Md.

By John Wagner

Del. Tiffany T. Alston (D-Prince George's), who has been rethinking her support of Maryland's same-sex marriage bill, said Thursday that she is researching an amendment that would offer civil unions instead.

"I have what I believe to be a solution," Alston told reporters. "I don't know if it will garner any political will or favor."

Bill sponsors have been adamant that they do not want civil unions, which they argue amount to second-class treatment of gay couples.

Alston is one of two delegates who threw the same-sex marriage bill off track this week by skipping a planned vote by the House Judiciary Committee. It remained unclear Thursday afternoon when the committee might try to vote again.

Supporters had been counting on the votes of Alston and Del. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore) to reach the 12 votes needed on the committee to send the bill to the House floor with a favorable recommendation. Carter has indicated she is willing to support the bill but has been out sick Thursday.

Alston did not indicate how she would vote on a same-sex marriage bill if her amendment fails in committee.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), meanwhile, on Thursday afternoon strongly encouraged the House to pass the same bill that passed the Senate last week on a 25-to-21 vote.

"I hope the House will come to together," O'Malley told reporters. "I hope they pass the bill that passed the Senate, and I hope they send it to my desk."

O'Malley, who previously supported civil unions, said the bill that passed the Senate strikes the right balance between expanding rights and protecting religious freedoms.

Several Senate amendments to the bill provide exemptions for religious groups that do not want to partipate in same-sex weddings or ceremonies.

By John Wagner  | March 3, 2011; 4:08 PM ET
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Civil unions are NOT the same as marriage which is why the bill's sponsors are so opposed to this option. These unions do not provide the same level of legal protections as does civil marriage. And why do loving and committed gay relationships deserve any less protection, and less equality, than straight relationships?

Why does the delegate find it necessary to change the bill at all? She earlier indicated her support for the CIVIL MARRIAGE bill, which is what is now before her committee.

Posted by: Rebecca305 | March 3, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

The irony here is that voting yes is actually the politically expedient thing for these delegates to do, both in the short and long terms. In the short term, no challenger could win a Democratic primary from the right as a single-issue protest candidate against an incumbent who voted for this bill and backed it up forthrightly and openly. Same-sex marriage just not that big of an issue for most people. And in the long term, a "no" vote would be a serious political liability due to changing public opinion on the issue and basic demographics.

What IS a big deal is being seen as having no spine. The result of the equivocation displayed by Delegates Arora and Alston in the last few days has been only to annoy activists on both sides and call their character into question. They were co-sponsors of the bill; there's no going back now. As much as they would like the issue to go away, it's just not going to.

Posted by: boomer400 | March 3, 2011 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Americans DO see gay marriage as a big deal. When the issue has been voted on in state after state, the public majority has strongly opposed gay marriage. In recent days, the Maryland delegates have received hundreds of emails and phone calls opposing gay marriage, and they have finally realized that passing the bill would be anti-democratic. It would be against the will of the people.

Posted by: MarylandLiz | March 4, 2011 6:43 AM | Report abuse

Liz, there's a difference between voting no on a referendum when you're forced to choose between two options and actually caring about an issue. If you google "State splits 3 ways on same-sex marriage", you'll find a Des Moines Register article about the situation in Iowa -- in short, there are activists on both sides and a massive group in the middle for whom this just isn't a top priority issue along with jobs, the economy, and national security. If this is the case in Iowa, where the same-sex marriage issue is extremely potent, then it's probably even more true in the rest of the country.

As for your contention that "the public majority has strongly opposed gay marriage," I'm not sure that 53-47 and 52-48 margins in Maine and California indicate "strong" opposition to same-sex marriage. That's a bare majority. I look forward to Maryland being the first state to uphold same-sex marriage by a direct vote of the people after your side uses millions in out-of-state cash to get signatures to put this issue on the ballot in 2012.

Posted by: boomer400 | March 4, 2011 9:49 AM | Report abuse

It has been said over and over, if half the white Americans voted to reinstate segregation or even slavery the African-American population would be powerless to stop it because they are a minority. Being part of a majority of bigots does not make you right, it just underscores the bigotry.

FYI there is no law that says a church HAS to marry anyone. My wife refused to take the marriage class at our church and they refused to marry us, but we still got married and still have all the benefits.

Posted by: Cwl33t | March 4, 2011 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Gays are not 3/5ths of a Human, as were neither African Americans prior to their Emancipation. Surely Alston can appreciate this.

What if a Powerful Majority of Citizens were to pressure the Legislature to roll back Her Marriage to the classification of a "Civil African American Union"?

Proposing any distinction respecting religious belief is categorically Un-Constitutional.

Posted by: customartist1500 | March 4, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

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