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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 08/27/2009

A Marriage Like Any Other

By editors

By Rich Madaleno

In 2002, I became the first openly gay person elected to the Maryland General Assembly. It was important to me to be straightforward about who I was while not being pigeonholed as “the gay guy.” I immersed myself in my role as a public servant, focused on my constituents and worked hard. As time passed, people began to see me as “the budget guy,” or as an advocate for education, addiction treatment or developmental disability programs, or simply as Rich. My colleagues also came to know my husband, Mark.

Seven years have helped me to transcend being defined by my sexual orientation. But seven years, two wonderful children and a church wedding later, my husband and I are still denied the fundamental protections of civil marriage. Anyone who has ever stood up for his or her family will understand why the risk of being viewed as “the gay senator” can no longer keep me from speaking out. Achieving the freedom to marry, and removing a restriction that impedes the development of secure families, is a matter of fundamental social justice that needs vocal champions.

This year and last, with 52 of my colleagues, I introduced legislation to allow people to enter into civil marriage contracts regardless of gender. Unfortunately, this bill has yet to appear on a voting list in either chamber. This legislative inertia doesn’t have to be the end of the story, as I will explain in a moment. But, at a personal level, it has caused me to rethink this basic aspect of my public service: Until more legislators are willing to stand with me, there is no question that I must speak on behalf of my family and the thousands like us. As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Truth ..... must be clothed with flesh and blood, or it cannot tell its whole story.”

It will soon be 10 years since Mark and I were set up on a fateful blind date and eight years since our wedding at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda. Do we have a marriage license? No. But marriage is more than a legal document. The foundation of ours is the commitment we made, before our families and religious community, to build a life together and to be there for one another in good times and bad. The root of our marriage isn’t a license but our son and daughter, our families, our home, our memories and our dreams. But make no mistake — a marriage license would mean vital rights and responsibilities for our family, especially during turbulent financial times, and in matters related to health care, child-rearing, social services, retirement and, though we do not relish the thought, the time when one of us leaves this life for something greater.

In Maryland, instead of allowing us to legally marry, the General Assembly has passed a few limited bills to placate us “domestic partners,” as we are referred to in law. We appreciate the 10 to 15 rights of marriage now within our reach. But with 400-plus rights of marriage bestowed by the state and more than a thousand bestowed by the federal government, it is clear that no arrangement other than civil marriage will achieve equal protection under the law or erase the sting to our personhood that results from denying us the freedom to marry.

Gaining this support in the General Assembly may take time. But there is a way in which Maryland can move forward immediately.

While Maryland does not allow same-gender couples to legalize their relationships here, many such couples in our state are already legally married. Some had destination weddings in a pro-equality state such as Vermont or Massachusetts; others were married before moving to Maryland for work or family. Recently, I asked for an opinion from Attorney General Doug Gansler regarding whether Maryland should follow the District and New York and honor these legal marriages. Having reviewed our case law, I believe we have a legal obligation to do just that. In the past, Maryland has, as a legal principle, honored marriages performed elsewhere even when those marriages could not have been performed here. A government should not dissolve a validly contracted marriage without even one party requesting it.

The fact that the legislature is crippled by inaction on this issue does not end Maryland’s responsibility to the law. With the stroke of a pen, Gansler and Gov. Martin O’Malley can help to bring peace and security to thousands of Maryland families.

Mark and I would prefer to make it “official” in Maryland rather than traveling to New England. But until more of my colleagues in the General Assembly make it possible for gays and lesbians to legally marry here, we could at least take heart in knowing that our marriage was honored by our state. Whatever road it takes to get there, this “gay guy” looks forward to the day when his family is like any other, and when future generations have no understanding of what it was like before all Americans had the freedom to marry the person they love.

The writer, a Democrat, represents the 18th District in the Maryland Senate.

By editors  | August 27, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
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Bravo! We need gay marriage legalized in this state and it's amazing that so many other states have beat us to it.
I'm a straight woman married for more than 30 years. I can't understand why anyone would consider giving 2 adults the right to marry a threat to their own marriage.

Posted by: ramat | August 27, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Thank God for Rich Madaleno, and all others who have--often at considerable personal risk--worked tirelessly so that ALL people are treated fairly.

It'll be a great day when all marriages and families are treated equally under law, and people of faith and compassion can spend more of our time and energy fighting poverty.

Posted by: rob_k | August 27, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I wish Rep. Madaleno the very best in his effort to have his marriage officially recognized in Maryland. Although all people deserve the right to marry, the terrible irony of this situation makes his story so compelling--here is a man that works everyday to support the rights of citizens in Maryland while his own civil rights are denied!

Maryland: get your act together and stand on the side of freedom for all! Do you want to look back on these dark days the way states that refused school integration have to live down their own histories of racial bigotry?

Posted by: randtf1802 | August 27, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I live in District 18 and vote for Senator Madaleno. I sometimes run into Rich and his family at worship on Sunday. I don't understand why Marylanders have to wait longer for marriage equality than residents of Iowa and most of New England. I agree that even if Maryland's state legislature is not ready to pass legislation, at least our Attorney General may be able to see the justice of recognizing marriages from other states. I see the benefits to Mark's and Rich's children when all the advantages of civil marriage are granted to them. I'd like to live in a community where we care about each other and support responsible parenting. I think this would help our children, too.

Posted by: MichaelBenefiel | August 27, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I heartily agree with the previous posters. I am a straight married woman, and I believe it is well past time for Maryland to recognize marriages for all couples. Thanks to Rich Madaleno - whom I am lucky to have representing me in the state senate - and other leaders on this critical civil rights issue.

Posted by: kateosullivanus | August 27, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

You're a very good writer Sir, able to stir up sympethy in your audience. Bravo. You are aware though, that homosexuality is an abomination in they eyes of God, aren't you? You don't seem to mind trotting out the fact that you attend church, or that you were married in a church, but obviously your chruch has neglected to teach you about the sin of homosexuality. I, along with many other Christian believers, do not concider your church to be authentic because they have ruined their credit worthiness by condoning such actions as performing homosexual marriages. You proclamation of church membership is meaningless. If the issue of homosexuality ever shows up on a Maryland ballot, I will not hesitate to strike it down. I do not believe in meddeling into other people's lives. Whatever you do behind closed doors is none of my business. But I will never pat you on the back and say that your homosexual actions are "okay", because that would be lying. I'll let God deal with you on that issue. In the meantime, I do not want you teaching my children that homosexuality is normal. The government needs only to be concerned with reading, writing, and arithmetic. Leave all the social agenda B.S. out of the public school curriculum. Oh, and by the way, if I ever see your name on a ballot, I will be voting for whoever is running against you.

Posted by: WallyWutMD | August 27, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I would ask that no one respond directly to WallyWutMD's post. While I respect his right to his opinion, and while I don't agree with his opinion, I don't think we need to give any credence to his opinion by getting into a back and forth discussion about it. Let's simply focus on Rich's article, be supportive of Rich and his beautiful, loving and healthy family, and ignore hateful, and un-Christian comments like Wally's. By ignoring such comments, we remove any power they may have over us. Focus on the positive - focus on equality and ignore hatred and ignorance.

Posted by: NickDC | August 27, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Ah, NickDC, your liberal intolerance fools none of the readers here.

You don't agree with him and you most definitely do not respect his opinion because it is not congruent with yours.

Posted by: jbartelloni | August 27, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Mr jbartelloni misquoted NickDC as do most the right-wing types. NickDC never said that he "respected WallyWutMD's opinion." He said he "respected his RIGHT to his opinion." There's a big difference. And Mr jbartellonis mischaracterized attack is one right out of the Sean Hannity playbook.

Posted by: dskolanta-1 | August 27, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Great article Rich! My partner and I (and our three sons) are also awaiting the day when we are able to marry legally in Maryland. That day is coming, despite efforts to hold us back. It is always amusing how naysayers believe that if they just demonize gay families or refuse to give us rights, then we'll just "go away" or cease to exist. We do exist and will continue to exist. Our main goal in our lives is to raise our children to be well-mannered, spiritual, smart, and productive/ contributing citizens. Woo woo - crazy stuff. Radical. And today in between me trying to indoctrinate the masses into "the homosexual agenda", I'll also be packing for our vacation at the beach. There we will continue our lives of debauchery with 2 sets of in-laws, an aunt, lots of Grotto's pizza, and hopefully many sun-filled days of playing on the beach. Watch out!

Posted by: Mac16 | August 27, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Bravo, Rick! My intended and I now reside in Virginia and look to move to the Free State in the near future. DOMA will fall in the next year but I don't expect Virginia to enter the 21st century anytime soon.

As far as WallyWutMD goes, please just ignore him. He has a history of "tin-hat" behavior and like his bigotry, he'll fade away soon after as well.

Posted by: Dale8 | August 27, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

A gay couple who are dear friends were able finally to legally get married in California before the Prop 8 was shot down. I jokingly told them that now if they ever divorce, they will have the same problems of dividing up the stuff as the rest of us who go through a divorce! (I hope not, they have been together for 15 years!)

Posted by: PalmSpringsGirl | August 27, 2009 7:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm a straight male and a voter. I have known many people of alternate sexual orientation over the years, including my daughter. As a group, they are neither more nor less "moral" than any other group of people I have known. It's time to acknowledge that the founding principles of this nation require that everyone be free to marry whoever they choose to live with.

Posted by: Stephen_Leake | August 28, 2009 2:53 AM | Report abuse

My partner and I have been together for many years.

We were married. By a rabbi. In a mainstream Jewish temple. In Texas. Before our friends and family and, we trust, before God. We have a religious marriage contract framed and hanging on the wall in our bedroom.

Our friends, families and neighbors recognize that our lives are completely intertwined--shared home, mortgage, bills, medical and financial decisions, all the things that spouses share. Our religion and the people who know us know that we live as all married couples do--in interdependency.

It's time our legal system caught up with the reality of our lives.

If you have to peek between people's legs to determine what rights they should or shouldn't have, respectfully, I suggest you are missing the very reason our Constitution stipulates Equal Protection as a basic legal principle.

Posted by: ricklinguist | August 28, 2009 7:20 AM | Report abuse


You too must be another intolerant liberal.

You have lumped someone who voted for Obama, Jim Webb, Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Chap Peterson , et al., in the right wing category.

You are in error.

I don't agree with WallyMutMD's post, but I do agree that he is entitled to his opinion, howver negative it might be.

NickDC reminds me of a fourth grade school girl who urges two of her friends to isolate another with whom they disagree.

Posted by: jbartelloni | August 28, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

as usual society is leading the church. however in time the church will come to agreed upon the FACT that scripture NEVER said that homosexuality was a sin. not from lev where not every prohibition of itself was a sin, to genesis and romans which were given assigned meanings in spite of their words, to itim and icor where a fraudulent transposition of the word "homosexual" was made in man's attempt to add his own stroke to the law, to matthew where man again has attempted to add his own stroke to the law by adding the word "only", to trying to resurrect the old covenant relationship to god thru regulation as in deut 28, when our relationship to god in the new covenant is directly to him thru the one who lives in each believer.......christ(torn curtain),to the new covenant itself being without regulation (all things are permissable but not all things are beneficial) to ALL new covenant law being summed up in the 2nd commandment(love you neighbor as yourself) to make us "conscious" of NOT "loving our neighbor as ourself" and homosexuality not coming against the 2nd commandment.

Posted by: feetxxxl | August 28, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

It's time Maryland.

And kudos to New England, Iowa and the Episcopal Church for supporting marriage equality.

Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace,
Washington, Connecticut, USA

This summer couples are coming to CT to wed from all around the country, and in many cases they are bringing their families and friends along to celebrate.
Congrats to all.

And some of these couples have been together for 38, 45 and 46 years!

So to the marriage foes and sexually phobic, please find something else to do with your time. Find love.

And please remember, marriage is firstly a civil matter, as marriage licenses are issued by and recorded in town halls not church, not mosques or temples in America.

Posted by: cornetmustich | August 28, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Rich Madaleno stands on the side of love and I stand with him. It is critically important that we, as a nation, end marriage discrimination. But this is only one step in the much larger moral imperative to legally recognize gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as full and equal human beings. Full equality in every matter governed by local, state and federal law is what every person should be guaranteed in the United States of America.

Posted by: adamgerhardstein | August 28, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Cheers to you for your hard work on behalf of your state Rich. Thank you for being a voice for those that are discriminated against. Good luck in securing equal protection for yourself and others. It will come, it is constitutionally a slam dunk case. And come on over to my home state of Iowa, where the courts are just, and get yourself married at my Unitarian Church (which is joyfully very very busy!). Peace to you and your family.

Posted by: heather17 | August 28, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

It as if people that are "theologically" opposed to such marriages and unions think that this is strictly a "modern phenomenon", that is somehow a part of an agenda to destroy "traditional family values" in our country and in the world.

This is deeply fallacious and hurts everyone on all sides of this issue as such ideas are deeply flawed, angrily discriminatory, and entirely inaccurate.

It seems that posters like Wally have the right to place themselves in the appearance of being on a "better" or "higher" moral and ethical ground of some kind, which then allows judgement and discrimination to be acceptable exceptions to their own core religious tenets.

As those that do not fit within their philosophies must therefore be less than, (since "abominable" by their interpretation), it is perfectly acceptable by the same standards of unconditional love, acceptance, and non-judgement to now easily make the exception to those baseline tenets of their own theology, which forbid such judgements be made by man upon their fellow human beings. This is a deadly trap of powermadness as such people have assumed the right of the judge in a throne which they do not sit themselves and frequently have been proved to be entirely hypocritcal in almost every way once their own "closets" have been opened. Sad, inconsistent, dishonest, and in need of being utterly corrected for all to see the ridiculousness of such hypocrisy.

Posted by: MaryanneArnow | August 28, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

As a non-Christian, I simply don't care what Christianity, or any other religious faith, allegedly has to say about this or any other secular matter. Furthermore, I also won't stand for those trying to impose their 'faith-based' notions on me or anyone else by force of law. The first amendment protects not only freedom of religion but more importanly, freedom from it.

Posted by: rtaylor3 | August 28, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

As a transgender woman (another form of abominable "lifestyle choice" that is inappropriately MIScharaacterized), that is still married to my wife, soulmate, and best friends (yes i took my vows seriously)...

By the same reasoning that Wally and others have used,(as i am still LEGALLY married (now in a same sex marriage), should i now, based upon your philosophies, be deprived of the rights and comforts of my marriage to the woman that i love, even though i am still the same human being ?

Posted by: MaryanneArnow | August 28, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I heartily agree. Rich has indicated the need for civil marriage; the state does not need to concern itself with the policies of any religion. Gay and lesbian couples, like their heterosexual counterparts, can seek a marriage in a church seperate from the civil ceremony if they so choose. By keeping the state and the church seperate, everybody wins. If your denomination doesn't approve of gay marriage, so be it. Mine does -- I'm proud to be a Unitarian Universalist in Ft. Myers Florida.

Posted by: irish1948 | August 28, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse


Permit civil marriage for all and let churches decide what to bless.

Posted by: GladGran | August 28, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I appreciate your coming forward, Mr. Maldano. It is high time that same-sex couples were given the same legal rights as opposite-sex couples. Many gay couples have had weddings and are members of my church. Weddings are the right of churches; marriage is the right of citizens.

Posted by: sallyeileen51 | August 28, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

This is an important issue that effects all of us -- gay or straight. Most everyone has friends or family members whose lives are impacted by discrimination against same sex couples. All of our lives -- and society as a whole -- will be greatly enhanced when same sex couples can benefit equally in the rights of marriage. Maryland -- it is time!

Posted by: PamBrowning | August 29, 2009 1:31 AM | Report abuse

The American Psychiatric Association has confirmed that sexual orientation is natural, biologically induced, morally neutral, immutable, neither contagious nor learned and has no relation to an individual’s ability to form deep and lasting relationships, to parent children, to work or to contribute to society.

The American Psychological Association states that homosexuality and homosexual relationships are normal.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have all endorsed civil marriage for same-sex couples because marriage strengthens the mental and physical health and the longevity of couples, and provides greater legal and financial security for children, parents and seniors.

When America’s premier child and mental health associations and their expert panels endorse marriage equality, there is thus no ethical reason to discriminate against gay people and their children.

The U.S. Census reveals that one-third of America’s same-sex families are raising children, with the same responsibilities of any American family, needing and deserving all the same financial, legal and social protections that current marriage laws provides.

Children should learn that same-sex marriage equals opposite-sex marriage because they need to know that all American families are equal in the eyes of the law.

Three percent of every generation of children from every culture will always realize that they are gay. The question that we need to ask ourselves is: what are we doing to make the world a safer and more welcoming place for them?

Those associations have reviewed the research and made policy statements that are for the good of America. They represent more than 400,000 mental health and child health specialists. No mainstream credible medical or mental health associations have any different opinions.

All the published evidence says one thing: marriage is good for Americans, and that it should be available to all American adults.

Posted by: KateOHanlanMD | August 29, 2009 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Core American values include personal responsibility and raising children in a safe, loving and enriching environment. Rich and Mark epitomize those core values. Beyond that, Senator Madaleno has provided enormous and excellent public service to our community.
I am a straight grandfather and appreciative constituent.

Posted by: sheldon_fishman | August 30, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

The same sex couples I know are equal in my eyes to those of different sexes. Yes MD should consider getting on board this train, before it gains to much speed and leaves us in the dust. Unfortunately I now live in south Carolina, which will probably get run over by this train at some point.

Posted by: JanethWelch | September 1, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

Obviously our population wasn't built upon gay marriages. Also, the state has no business in defining ANY marriage - gay or straight. God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman. Eve was created from the rib of Adam. She was to be his companion. God's law of marriage supersedes the laws of the state. The state-issued marriage license gives the state authority over your marriage and it's fruits (your children). My wife and I were married without a license. Do a search for "Cliff & Sara's Covenant Wedding". If gays want to be married by someone willing to do so, that is their business as long as they are not infringing upon my liberties -- but I don't believe God honors it. Either way, the state has no authority to stick their nose in these matters. A marriage license is not necessary.

Posted by: cliff8 | September 2, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

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