Monday, December 27, 2010

Is Gay Marriage Coming to Maryland?

At the risk of wading more deeply into controversial waters than usual, I wanted to take a look at the issue of gay marriage and the likelihood that it will become a reality in Maryland.

The Washington Post’s John Wagner and others have reported on the fact that changes in the Maryland State Legislature seem to augur well for enactment of a gay marriage law. Further, Senate President Mike Miller (a gay marriage opponent) has agreed to let such a bill be voted on in the Senate, and Governor Martin O’Malley has stated that he will sign it if it reaches his desk.

I agree that all of these things are likely to occur. However, I think that gay marriage will ultimately be settled not by the legislature but at the ballot box, just as was the case with three other mega-issues which dominated Marylanders’ attention at different times during the past two decades: gun control, abortion, and gambling.

State law allows a recently passed law to be the subject of a 2012 ballot referendum, pending the outcome of a successful petition drive. If that happens – and I think it is likely – then the fate of gay marriage in Maryland becomes far more difficult to predict.

Washington Post polling done in May demonstrated that, while attitudes seem to be moving in a direction supportive of gay marriage, only a bare plurality (46 to 44 percent) of Marylanders support it. Neither side presently has the numbers needed to coast to an easy victory. The winning side will be the one that wins the voter intensity battle, ultimately delivering its supporters to the polls. Right now, I think you can make a case that – based on recent history and Maryland's demographics – opponents of gay marriage may have an advantage.

In 2008, California voters passed Proposition 8, which effectively banned same sex marriage. Exit polling done on election night found that 70 percent of black voters supported the ban. A study performed by opponents of Proposition 8 concluded that, “black support for Proposition 8 can largely be explained by African Americans’ higher levels of religiosity—a characteristic strongly associated with opposition to samesex marriage.”

While black voters comprise about seven percent of California’s population, they make up nearly 30 percent of Maryland’s population.  Governor O’Malley’s stronger-than-expected performance in the 2010 gubernatorial race was partially a result of the strong support he received from a black electorate surging in importance. Black voters will play a similarly critical role in determining the outcome of a gay marriage referendum.

It is also important to note that the strong network of black churches in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County could play an important role in both waging a successful petition drive, as well as mobilizing opposition to the gay marriage law. Further, President Obama will likely be at the top of the Democratic ticket – just as he was when Proposition 8 was passed in 2008 – giving black voters further impetus to vote.

Exit polling also showed that another reason Proposition 8 passed was because 53 percent of Hispanic voters backed it. Maryland, of course, has far fewer Hispanics than California does (37 percent).  But a little more than one in five Marylanders is Catholic. In 2008, 64 percent of Catholic voters supported Proposition 8. If you factor in orthodox Jews, Republicans and conservative-leaning independents, then the building blocks of a coalition sufficient to stop gay marriage from becoming law in this most liberal of states seem to be in place.

In 2008, state voters settled a multi-year conversation about the future of gambling in Maryland. Once the state’s budgetary woes have been addressed, gay marriage is poised to be the next topic to dominate the debate over the next two years.  So, regardless of where you stand on the merits of the issue, it is clear that any action which the legislature takes is a sideshow to the very public, very emotional battle which is ultimately coming.

13 comments:

  1. I think that if there is a way to make Gay men NOT marry heterosexual women...then hey HAVE At it

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  2. You leave out one factor that will affect any Maryland race moreso than its California predecessor. Remember that the pro-gay marriage forces in CA have put on a harassment and smear campaign against people who they found out contributed to the anti-gay marriage cause. It was all done after the fact, but those who oppose gay marriage in Maryland may think twice about contributing to any group who comes out for a ballot initiative to reverse the practice - let alone sign a petition.

    It wouldn't be the politically correct thing to do.

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  3. I always wonder why issues like this are left up to the government to decide. Seems like a pretty personal issue to me, and one that doesn't affect the vast majority of the population (unless you're one of those old-school moralists who gets offended when people you don't know act different than you would in a given scenario).

    It's nice that this is going to the people (rather than bogging down our politicians), I guess, but this may be a situation where democracy works against its stated intent. That is, we may have the majority voting to deny a freedom to a minority for pretty much no reason. That's not America.

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  4. The fact that marriage is the union of a man and woman is the law of nature, not the law of "old school moralists" or religious extremists. In fact it is what’s normal. Nature requires a man and woman to reproduce. Two of the same sex just won’t do it – sorry, but that’s a fact. And ideally, this union is the bedrock of a family.

    I understand that a minority of people want to redefine this because it's nice to make people feel better or feel normal or included, but it's superficial because nature says it’s not normal and it’s narrow minded to suggest that gay marriage doesn't affect the majority of the population because it affects our children. It IS important to defend traditional marriage because this "redefinition" of what's normal, becomes a part of our kids’ environment and it's counter to what most of us want to teach or want for our kids. Demonize me if you must resort to that, but the law of nature is on my side and is stronger than anything pro-gay marriage forces can concoct.

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  5. Well said, Seth. While I don't really feel that it affects our children and society in general the way you do, I respect your opinion and the way in which you support it.

    True, the issue isn't black and white. I guess my point is more that I think we have much bigger fish to fry in government than worrying about who marries who and since I don't really see the harm I'm for it.

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  6. See, people like Seth keep saying things like, "this will affect our children." You do realize you can't just say that and expect to change anyone's mind right? You do actually have to provide something showing how it will negatively affect them. I contend to you that that is in fact what I have not seen anyone actually do, save the tired old argument of homosexuality being a sin and if that's the best you can provide we probably won't actually be able to discuss much :P. The argument from nature is merely a straw man and has no relevance though I'm afraid.

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  7. Oh, and one other note, Seth you said, "and it's counter to what most of us want to teach or want for our kids." If your argument is you want to teach your kids that homosexuality is bad, and letting them marry would then make things harder for you, can you really say you are not pushing your religion on other people simply because you don't like how they live?

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  8. @seth:
    I have respectfully disagree. Marriage, of any sort, is not a law of nature. It is a voluntary, consensual arrangment and not some sort of mandate or inevitability.

    And I think it is a very view of marriage to try and validate it solely on the premise of reproduction. People - gay or hetero - want to get married for reasons beyond just procreation.

    You many believe it is a mandate to become married and that marriage is founded primarily on the concept of reproduction - and I can respect that. But perhaps you should take other peoples' perspectives into account.

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  9. "Traditional marriage" has historically been defined as one man with several women. The one man/one woman union is a fairly recent phenomenon.

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  10. Seth,

    Homosexuals are going to have relationships whether they can marry or not, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. So, when your children inevitably ask what gay people are, it would be far easier to acknowledge them instead of sticking your fingers in your ears chanting "la la la they aren't real!" I can guarantee you that it won't ruin the kids' lives one bit. Speaking from experience, shielding them from ignorance and bigotry is the smartest thing you can do as a parent.

    It is difficult to define what "nature" really is anymore, because of the extent to which humans defile and exploit it. Love is about the only pure, natural thing that we have left: don't destroy it by telling people they're only allowed to love one kind of person.

    Contrary to your argument, love is what marriage is about, not reproduction. It's gotten to be kind of a cliche by now, but I have to ask you if you also disapprove of the union of elderly or impotent people. Or how about perfectly healthy couples who prefer each other's company and just don't want to have children?

    Marriage is essentially a love between two consenting adults that is acknowledged by law. That is pretty much its most basic definition in our modern society, and perhaps it has become superfluous. But there are legal rights associated with marriage that homosexual people deserve, and if hetero couples can have it, so should they.

    As for the religious side of things, I point you to Luke 16:18, where Jesus says "Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery." So why are divorce rates higher than ever these days, when they are labeled as sins in the Bible? Maybe we should outlaw that as well.

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  11. I see that my comments have elicited a number of responses and it seems that some of the responses took my comments, did a little manipulation and then argued with that manipulation so I wanted to do a little clarification.

    First, let me say that I'm not pushing any religion so let's debunk that right now. I'm talking about nature and nature requires a man and a woman to start a family. Period. You can’t argue that. Ideally, that union is the bedrock of a family.

    Second, it does affect kids because it affects their environment. Truthfully, most parents wish for their kids to form healthy, heterosexual relationships at the right time and parents are the first model. Because kids should ideally have strong male and female parental influence in their lives, this is what we should promote and strengthen. It also affects kids who are placed, through no fault of their own, with gay adoptive parents. I’m sure the gay adoptive parents have the best intentions, but it’s unnatural and therefore costly no matter how good the intentions.

    Lastly, it is ignorant to portray that I "stick [my] fingers in [my] ears chanting 'la la la they aren't real!'" or something similar when my children ask about gay people and then argue with their manipulated version. I realize that may be what you must resort to since nature sides with me, but it’s not the case. Let me say this. I am not dismissing the fact that gay adults can form a loving relationship, live together and enjoy one another. Look, to each his/her own. Do what you do, no problem, but understand that kids, not some radical agenda, come first and some superficial attempt at marriage redefinition does not change that. Nature has spoken.

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  12. You keep saying that homosexual couples raising a child would be bad for that child. Please stop just stating it and cite something. That's what we're asking. Don't keep saying nature intends or anything like that. Give me long term studies showing a negative effect. Give me anything other than "nature is on my side." If the subject was who has a better chance to procreate then yes, heterosexuals would have nature on their side, this is about raising children. Why would two loving and caring individuals who happen to both be female/male cause the child harm?

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  13. Seth,

    As already pointed out, marriage is a man-made institution. It is in no way natural. You're correct in saying that procreation requires a man and a woman, but one's reproductive capabilities has no bearing on whether or not they can get married. If you are really so concerned about married couples reproducing, then shouldn't you be campaigning to outlaw marriages between people who are sterile? Even so, homosexual couples can reproduce, they just require a third party to do so.

    Now, to your point on the well-being of children being raised by same-sex parents, there have been studies that have concluded that children raised by same-sex parents are just as well-brought up as children raised by opposite-sex parents. Just read through the Q&A of the American Psychological Association's page on sexual orientation:

    http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx

    If you think opposite-sex parenting is truly ideal for children, then what do you think of single parenting, or children being raised by relatives other than their parents? Why is it that you'll derail the parenting capabilities of same-sex couples, but you seem to have nothing to say about other non-traditional forms of parenting?

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