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Posted at 3:18 PM ET, 03/ 4/2011

House panel passes same-sex marriage bill

By John Wagner

A previously stalled bill to allow same-sex marriages in Maryland was approved by a House committee Friday, but only after the panel's chairman, who rarely votes, augmented the final tally.

The 12-to-10 vote by the House Judiciary Committee sends the bill to the floor next week for what is expected to be a dramatic debate on the highest-profile issue being considered in the General Assembly this year. Twelve votes were needed from the panel for a favorable recommendation.

The Senate approved the bill 25 to 21 last week, and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has encouraged the House to follow suit.

The committee vote came after an amendment to offer civil unions to gay couples instead of marriage failed on a 10-to-10 vote. The amendment was offered by Del. Tiffany T. Alston (D-Prince George's), a co-sponsor of the original same-sex marriage bill.

Alston then voted against the same-sex marriage bill itself, saying her vote was "for my constituents."

"I know that my community does not like the bill," the freshman delegate said.

Alston and Del. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore) temporarily derailed the committee's consideration of the bill on Tuesday by skipping a planned voting session. Carter voted for the measure Friday.

Supporters had been counting on both Alston and Carter to reach the 12 votes needed to send the bill to the floor with a favorable recommendation.

Without Alston's vote, House Judiciary Chairman Joseph F. Vallario (D-Prince George's) provided the final vote. Aides said he was not available for an interview afterward.

Republicans complained again Friday that the bill is being rushed through the chamber, and noted how rare it is for Vallario to vote. Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Cecil) said he was not surprised.

"The chairman did what he was told," Smigiel said. "That's why he's chairman."

By John Wagner  | March 4, 2011; 3:18 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly, John Wagner, Same-Sex Marriage  
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Next: How they voted: House Judiciary on same-sex marriage


Delegate Alston, profile in courage, except not.

Posted by: md268 | March 4, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Go Maryland!

Posted by: MarilynManson | March 4, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

It’s a dark day in Maryland History. I’m especially disappointed in O’Malley who claims to have been formed by his Catholic School education. I guess money and political support are what matter most.

Posted by: trees2 | March 4, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse


This is awesome my husband and I live in Laurel MD and are finally proud to live in the "Free State". What I don't understand is why do Christians use the bible as a defense for banning same-sex marraige. My husband and I are NOT Christians and our marraige is both legal and spiritual in our religions eyes. Christians cannot constantly use the bible for defense because it dictates the law of the land only being for Christians if I'm not Christian and my religion says that it is okay for 2 men to marry than why should I be discrimminated against in my own state because I'm NOT a Christian that is unfair. But I'm so glad that today another step for justice for the MD LGBT community was made. This is a GREAT day for Maryland despite what "trees2" says (his/her comment is above) I'm very proud to be born and raised in this state. Hell if you don't like it Rhode Island could always use more people there. :-)

Posted by: JustinBTerry-Smith | March 4, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Delegate Tiffany Alston simply doesn't understand the meaning of "equality." She is a vocal advocate for equality for black people, but when it comes to marriage equality, she is first in line to discriminate against others. The bottom line is that Tiffany Alston is a hateful, evil bigot.

Posted by: SCOTTSCHMIDTT | March 4, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

You did the right thing Ms. Alston, in the end that's all that matters..

Posted by: wewintheylose1 | March 4, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Alston introduced a bill stating that all people are created equal and should be provided equal rights and benefits under the law...and then she changed her mind. Why?

Posted by: JesuswasaLiberal | March 4, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Alston introduced a bill stating that all people are created equal and should be provided equal rights and benefits under the law...and then she changed her mind. Why?

Posted by: JesuswasaLiberal | March 4, 2011 5:17 PM |

No. She introduced a bill about changing the definition of marriage in MD, and then she equivocated.

There might be multiple ways of providing certain benefits and priviledges to same sex couples without changing the definition of marriage and without violating the 14th amendment to the US consitution.

Posted by: captn_ahab | March 4, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

If we have to put up with the high taxes in this "liberal" state, then at least we need to reap some of the social rewards.

Shame on a black woman for voting against a civil rights law. She should be sent back to the 1960s for reeducation.

Posted by: reiflame1 | March 4, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Del. "for-my-constituents" a liar and a coward, plain and simple...and Del. Smigiel, who criticized and demeaned the chairman's vote, is a hack. Equality at last in my life-long home of Maryland. Alston learned nothing and knows nothing about her civil rights past. How shameful. Using a few "church goin' folks" as an excuse is beyond the pale. May her ankles heal quickly.

Posted by: demetz5050 | March 4, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

It is my firm belief that marriage is and should be known as that union between a man and a woman. It is based in our social history as such and needs no modification. That being that, what solves this thorny issue would be to change the application for a marriage license for that union, be it straight or gay to just that, to a civil union, and let what the state oversees and confers be applicable to consenting adults who desire to enter into that relationship. That would leave the issue of blessing that union, which is what marriage is in religious terms (and as a Catholic sacrament), in the province of the churches, and those who want to be "married" would be so in the eyes of their congregation and their God.

This issue can have winners on both sides of the argument, and what is bothersome is those who stand in the path of this from happening. If marriage is, as it has been alluded to in the past, designed for the sake of producing offspring, then why should a straight couple get married if they want no children? If marriage is so sacred, that the Congress of the US passed that bill in the 1990s, then why is the divorce rate at 51%? Changing the way that the state of MD allows upstanding, tax-paying, mentally competent citizens the right to be joined to the person of their mutual choosing makes sense. There is no proof that allowing this would affect the well being of other married couples, and am utterly amazed at the resistance, primarily coming out of PG County, for this legislation to come into being. Its not about being macho, its playing into the unsubstantiated fears that someone might not be "whole" if they're not wanting to bed down with a person of the opposite sex. Its time for this thinking to change. Lest the fear-mongers win out on this issue, I would like those voting against it to provide a valid, non-phobic and non-religious response as to why gay MD citizens should not be allowed this opportunity for equality with those who currently have the right to be joined in a union to the person of their choice, wait, the person of the opposite sex of their choice. If the term "married" is what scares you, then by all means deny gay MDers the right to get "married". But don't stop there. Oh no. If you are going to take that step, then you can't stop there. You must also make marriage undissolvable, meaning no divorce. Never. Nada. No way to get one. Is your faith in your religion and your convictions that strong to do that? Let's see what ya come back with. Until then, I am a strong proponent of any bill that levels the field for civil unions...FOR ALL Marylanders!

Posted by: scorpdude | March 4, 2011 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps Tiffany Alston should only have 3/5 of a vote in the Maryland House of Delegates.

Posted by: SCOTTSCHMIDTT | March 4, 2011 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Queers will be allowed to marry in Mary-Land? My. How progressive.

Posted by: robtjonz | March 4, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

When I first heard that Del. Alston was proposing "civil unions" as an alternative I was skeptical that it was the same "half-a-loaf" being offered elsewhere. But then when I learned that it was intended to get the state completely out of the "marriage" business -- the state would recognize civil unions, of which religious "marriage" would just be one acceptable type -- I found that I agreed with her entirely.

Unfortunately, while this would fix the problem of unequal treatment, it would be unacceptable to those same religious folks who are against same-sex marriage now, because it would eliminate their ability to lord their self-righteous morality over the gays.

My only regret is that Del. Alston didn't finally do the right thing and vote in favor of this bill to eliminate unwarranted and unjustified religious discrimination.

Posted by: alert4jsw | March 4, 2011 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Changing "marriage" to "civil union" is unacceptable because it would still accomplish the very thing that the LGBT community is fighting against: demonization. Once civil marriage is abolished and civil unions instantiated, the argument will be "Gay Americans are not worthy of civil marriage, and because they fought back marriage was taken away from all of us. It is the fault of Gay Americans."

We didn't have to rename "civil marriage" to something else when interracial marriage was legalized, even though over 70% of Americans disapproved of interracial marriage, and many for religious reasons.

Posted by: paulflorez | March 4, 2011 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Also please stop blaming the black community. Opposition to same-sex marriage isn't about being a Black American, it's about RELIGION. Look at the churches that the people who oppose same-sex marriage attend, I guarantee you that you will have a pied piper spewing hatred or simple but strong opposition from the pulpit. These are people who are voting based on how their church is telling them.

There are many LGBT Americans who are also black, thus the black community and the LGBT community are connected.

Posted by: paulflorez | March 4, 2011 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Why is it that religious views that influence actions are okay to be imposed on the broader public here in the US (Maryland, specifically) and are labeled "the Christian thing to do" and "moral", yet we condemn other religion-influenced people (like Muslims) for their actions and call many "terrorists" and "abusers"?

My 26-year, monogamous union with my same-gendered partner - living a quiet, suburban, corporate & professional, community-volunteer-heavy, tax-paying, voting, well-educated life - is more stable and contributory than a huge percentage of opposite-gendered legally married (in MD) couples.

I suggest we define "legal marriage" by the characteristics and qualities of the commitment we make to each other rather than by with whom we make our commitments.

Posted by: SpeakerSylvia | March 5, 2011 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm taking it that all Homosexuals are so proud they came and were born from Homosexual parents. This way they can continue the genes and DNA that were past down to them. After all Gays do not need Heterosexuals in life or be compared to. They are equal to Heterosexuals, even in adding to Civilization. From the beginning of time, they have added EQUAL amounts to the population as Heterosexuals. Therefore equal. Civilization does not NEED a Man and woman to further it, there are countless OTHER ways to create Civilization. Therefore Unconstitutional to FAVOR only one concept. So there, ALL you Heterosexuals can just go to hell. We can go it alone, thank you.

Posted by: daniwitz13 | March 5, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Civil Unions for all, should be the law of the land, like Hawaii just passed. Those that want marriage can go to their religious institutions for that service.

I read many straight couples in Hawaii look forward to a civil union rather than a marriage ceremony.

The priest or minister at the end of the ceremony say "By the power invested in me by the state". Does that mean the entire ceremony with God, up to that point was a joke?

Civil Unions for all, the government needs to exit the marriage (religious) ceremony.

Remember it was Christians in the south discriminated against black Americans. because the bible says.

Such non sense.

Posted by: COWENS99 | March 7, 2011 12:06 PM | Report abuse

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