Reuters – Maryland to Become 8th State to sign same-sex into law on Thursday

Maryland governor to sign same-sex marriage into law on Thursday
By Alice Popovici
ANNAPOLIS, Maryland | Mon Feb 27, 2012 6:55pm EST
(Reuters) – Maryland’s governor plans to sign a bill making same-sex marriage legal later this week, his office said on Monday, while opponents were making plans to challenge the new law at the ballot box.

The legislation, making Maryland the eighth state in the nation to legalize gay and lesbian nuptials, heads to Governor Martin O’Malley’s desk for his signature at a ceremony at 5 p.m. on Thursday, his office said.

The Democratic governor has supported the measure and promised to sign it once it was passed by lawmakers. The state Senate voted in favor of the bill last week after it was passed by the state’s lower House of Delegates.

While still controversial, same-sex marriage has been gaining acceptance nationally in recent weeks as Washington state legislators voted to allow gay marriage and the New Jersey legislature passed a gay marriage law through both houses, although it was vetoed by Governor Chris Christie.

An appeals court has also overturned California’s ban on gay marriage, enacted through a 2008 ballot initiative.

Same-sex couples can marry in the District of Columbia and in six states — Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York. Washington state will join the list in June unless opponents stop it ahead of a possible ballot initiative.

Opponents of same-sex marriage in Maryland were working to get a referendum seeking to repeal the law on the ballot in November.

“The citizens of the state, since it’s such a weighty issue, should have a final say,” Republican Delegate Tony O’Donnell, the House minority leader who opposed the bill, said on Monday.

“All polling data shows that the state is closely divided on this issue,” O’Donnell said. The Senate passed the bill 25 to 22; the House approved it 72 to 67.

Asked about the push for a referendum, the governor’s spokeswoman Takirra Winfield said the effort was not unexpected.

“The governor has faith in the people of our state,” she said, adding that the governor believed voters will “seek to take the best action that will protect equality for all.”

Opponents would need nearly 56,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections. They would need to submit a third of those signatures by May 31 and the remainder by June 30 to get the measure on the November ballot.

(Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston)

U.S.

Maryland Senate approves same-sex marriage bill

Maryland Senate approves same-sex marriage bill
CIVIL UNIONS

February 23, 2012|By Michael Pearson, CNN

Gov. Martin O’Malley has pledged to sign the bill, which would make Maryland the eighth state to approve same-sex marriage.
The Maryland Senate voted Thursday evening to legalize same-sex marriage, the latest sign of growing national recognition of such unions among gay and lesbian couples.Gov. Martin O’Malley has pledged to sign the bill into law, which was approved last week by the House of Delegates.”All children deserve the opportunity to live in a loving, caring, committed, and stable home, protected equally under the law,” O’Malley said in a statement after the vote.The Maryland vote comes less than two weeks after Washington legislators voted to legalize same-sex marriage. That measure will take effect in the summer if it survives a likely court challenge.Six states and the District of Columbia already issue same-sex marriage licenses — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Five states — Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Rhode Island — allow civil unions that provide rights similar to marriage.New Jersey lawmakers approved same-sex marriage this month, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the legislation. He has said voters should decide the issue in a statewide referendum.Voters in Minnesota and North Carolina, meanwhile, will consider proposals in November to ban gay marriage in those states. New Hampshire lawmakers may also consider a repeal of its same-sex marriage law, according to the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage. Lawsuits seeking to expand civil unions or turn back laws banning same-sex marriages are working through the courts in at least 12 states, including Hawaii, Minnesota and California, the organization said.The flurry of activity is a stark change from two decades ago, when the issue of same-sex marriage first gained national attention. Just a decade ago, no states allowed such unions.In 1996, when Congress defined marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman, 68% of Americans opposed same-sex marriage, with just 27% in favor, according to polling by Gallup. By May 2011, the lines had crossed, with 53% of Americans in favor and 45% opposed, according to the organization.In November, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported a more divided public — 46% in favor of same-sex marriages and 44% opposed. But Pew also said the uptick in support seems to be gaining steam, having jumped 9 percentage points in two years.The shifting attitudes have emboldened proponents of same-sex marriage.”There’s no question that with so many Americans having changed their minds and opened their hearts as they’ve heard the stories of real couples and thought about why marriage matters, we now have tremendous momentum towards ending marriage discrimination,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, which favors recognizing a right to marriage for gay couples.”We could see a nationwide victory as soon as one to two years. It could also take as much as 10 years.”Opponents disagree.Citing the 31 states in which voters have approved measures defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown said he doesn’t believe polls saying that a majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage.”The reality is that in these 31 states, everywhere we’ve had a vote, is that voters have said they believe marriage is an institution between a man and a woman,” Brown said.Same-sex marriage became a national issue in 1993, after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a ban on same-sex marriages violated the state constitution.Legislation was introduced recently to allow same-sex marriages in Illinois, and bills from 2011 remain technically active in Hawaii and Minnesota, said Jack Tweedie of the National Council of State Legislatures. It’s unclear whether any will see significant action, he said.An effort is also underway to put a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage on the November ballot in Maine, where voters previously overturned a 2009 state law authorizing same-sex marriage.In California, meanwhile, a federal appeals court recently ruled against a voter-passed referendum that outlawed same-sex marriage. It said such a ban was unconstitutional and singled out gays and lesbians for discrimination. The case appears to be eventually headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.Brown said Democratic legislatures — not voters — have been behind most of the recent action on same-sex marriage. Upcoming ballot initiatives will give voters an opportunity to refute the polling, and Brown says they will.”What you will see is that there will be a vote in states representing all the different regions of this country and people are going to have the chance to say, emphatically, ‘No’,” Brown said.

 

Maryland about to pass Gay Marriage.

Maryland gay marriage bill on way to governor

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (AP) – Gay marriage is all but legalized in the state of Maryland after the legislature gave its final OK Thursday to the law that’s being sent to the governor, who said he expects to sign it sometime this week.

By Patrick Semansky, AP
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, left, embraces Sen. Richard Madaleno, an openly gay member of the state Senate, after the legislature approved a gay marriage bill on Thursday.

The state Senate voted 25-22 for the law. The vote comes less than a week after the House of Delegates barely passed the measure.
Maryland will become the eighth state to allow gay marriage when Gov. Martin O’Malley— who sponsored the bill — signs the legislation. The Democrat made the measure a priority this session after it stalled last year.
INTERACTIVE: Same-sex marriage rulings by state
Six states allow gay couples to wed — Connecticut, New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont — as well as the Washington capital district. The governor of Washington signed a bill this month that would make that state the seventh.
Opponents in Maryland have vowed to bring the measure to referendum in November. They will need to gather at least 55,726 valid signatures of Maryland voters to put it on the ballot and can begin collecting names now that the bill has passed both chambers.
Some churches and clergy members have spoken out against the bill, saying it threatens religious freedoms and violates their tradition of defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
“The enormous public outcry that this legislation has generated — voiced by Marylanders that span political, racial, social and religious backgrounds — demonstrates a clear need to take this issue to a vote of the people,” Maryland Catholic Conference spokeswoman Kathy Dempsey said in a statement. “Every time this issue has been brought to a statewide vote, the people have upheld traditional marriage.”
Leaders at the Human Rights Campaign, a group that joined a coalition of organizations to advocate for the bill, said they expect opponents will gather the required number of signatures.
Sen. Allan Kittleman, the only Senate Republican to vote in favor of the legislation, said he is proud of his decision and not concerned about political consequences down the road.
“You don’t worry about politics when you’re dealing with the civil rights issue of your generation,” said Kittleman, R-Howard, the son of the late Sen. Robert Kittleman, who was known for civil rights advocacy.
Gay marriage remains on hold in California after opponents petitioned a federal appeals court Tuesday to review a split decision by three of its judges that struck down a voter-approved measure that limited marriage to a man and woman.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Huffington Post – NJ Governor Denies Same-sex couples to Marry

New Jersey Gay Marriage Bill Vetoed By Chris Christie

ANGELA DELLI SANTI   02/17/12 05:57 PM ET  AP

TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie has followed through on his promise to reject a bill allowing same-sex marriage in New Jersey by quickly vetoing the measure Friday and renewing his call for a ballot question to decide the issue.

The veto came a day after the state Assembly passed the bill. The state Senate had passed it on Monday. Christie, a Republican who opposes same-sex marriage, had vowed “very swift action” once the measure reached his desk.

In returning the bill to the Legislature, Christie reaffirmed his view that voters should decide whether to change the definition of marriage in New Jersey. His veto also proposed creating an ombudsman to oversee compliance with the state’s civil union law, which same-sex couples have said is flawed and promotes discrimination.

“I am adhering to what I’ve said since this bill was first introduced – an issue of this magnitude and importance, which requires a constitutional amendment, should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide,” Christie said in a statement. “I continue to encourage the Legislature to trust the people of New Jersey and seek their input by allowing our citizens to vote on a question that represents a profoundly significant societal change. This is the only path to amend our State Constitution and the best way to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in our state.

“I have been just as adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples – as well as the strict enforcement of those rights and benefits,” the statement continued. “Discrimination should not be tolerated and any complaint alleging a violation of a citizen’s right should be investigated and, if appropriate, remedied. To that end, I include in my conditional veto the creation of a strong Ombudsman for Civil Unions to carry on New Jersey’s strong tradition of tolerance and fairness.”

Democrats who had pushed the bill forward said they were disappointed, but not surprised, by Christie’s action.

“It’s unfortunate that the governor would let his own personal ideology infringe on the rights of thousands of New Jerseyans,” said Reed Gusciora, one of two openly gay New Jersey lawmakers and a sponsor of the bill. “For all those who oppose marriage equality, their lives would have been completely unchanged by this bill, but for same-sex couples, their lives would have been radically transformed. Unfortunately, the governor couldn’t see past his own personal ambitions to honor this truth.”

Senate Democratic leaders were more blunt in their criticism of the governor.

“He had a chance to do the right thing, and failed miserably,” Senate President Steve Sweeney said.

“Don’t be fooled by the governor’s call for a public referendum or his idea of an ombudsman for civil unions – it is nothing more than a political smoke screen designed to cover the tracks of those retreating from their leadership and lawmaking responsibilities,” Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said. “Civil unions have already proven to be a failure and no ombudsman can change that.”

Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization focusing on gay rights issues that last year filed a lawsuit for marriage equality in New Jersey, called Christie’s veto “an unfortunate detour” in the quest for gay marriage.

“We are disappointed that Governor Christie did not do what is right for New Jersey families, but we are not discouraged,” said Hayley Gorenberg, the group’s deputy legal director. “We’ll continue to make our case for equality with our plaintiffs in court.”

Proponents of the bill said gay marriage is a civil right being denied to gay couples, while opponents said the definition of marriage as a heterosexual institution should not be expanded. The legislation contains a religious opt-out clause, meaning no church clergy would be required to perform gay marriages and places of worship would not have to allow same-sex weddings at their facilities.

Steven Goldstein, chairman of the state’s largest gay rights group, Garden State Equality, said Christie’s national political ambitions guided his action.

“He won’t veto the bill because he’s anti-gay,” Goldstein said in a statement issued before the veto was issued Friday. “He’ll veto the bill because the 2016 South Carolina presidential primary electorate is anti-gay.”

Goldstein, who said he has a cordial relationship with the governor, promised to continue fighting him vigorously on the issue. “And we will win, so help me God,” he said.

Another gay marriage supporter, Washington state Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire, also reached out to Christie, a practicing Catholic. Gregoire sent the governor a letter last month offering to talk about gay marriage because, in her words, “while I am a Governor, I am also a Catholic.”

The Roman Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage.

Gregoire signed a gay marriage measure into law in Washington on Monday. Her spokeswoman, Karina Shagren, said Christie hasn’t responded to the letter.

Thirty states, including South Carolina, have adopted constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriages, most by defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Six states and Washington, D.C., allow gay marriage. Washington state’s new gay marriage law is set to go into effect in June.

Lawmakers in New Jersey have until the end of the legislative session in January 2014 to override the veto.

They would need two-thirds of the lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate to agree. Both votes to pass it fell short of that mark. Christie has virtually guaranteed that no override would succeed because Republicans wouldn’t cross him.

The Democratic-controlled Legislature has failed in every previous attempt to override Christie, most notably on a cut to women’s health care and an effort to reinstate a tax surcharge on millionaires.

Christie – and most Republican lawmakers – want to put the issue to a public vote. One GOP lawmaker, Sen. Kip Bateman of Somerset, has proposed a ballot question asking voters to allow same-sex nuptials. However, the most powerful Democrat in the Legislature, Senate President Steve Sweeney, has said that won’t happen.

Democrats are hoping that support for gay marriage – 52 percent for gay marriage, 42 against it, in New Jersey, according to one recent voter poll – will continue growing.

If same-sex couples can’t win gay marriage through legislation, they have engaged in a parallel fight in the courts. Seven gay couples and several of their children have sued, claiming that the state’s civil union law doesn’t work as intended.

Civil unions were designed to provide the benefits of marriage to gay couples without the title. They were adopted after the Supreme Court instructed the Legislature to provide marriage equality to same-sex couples.

The state’s own review commission has since found problems with the law, and same-sex couples have backed that up with testimony before the Legislature.

John Grant and Daniel Weiss, an Asbury Park couple who are in a civil union, are among those who testified in support of gay marriage.

When Grant was in a life-threatening automobile accident and rushed to a New York hospital in 2010 – before that state legalized gay marriage – Weiss said he couldn’t authorize badly needed surgery or even go through his partner’s wallet to find his health insurance card. He said their civil union was essentially worthless; Grant’s neurosurgeon even asked, “What is a civil union?”

A gay marriage bill was defeated in the Senate two years ago, just before Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat who supported the measure, left office. Advocates’ hopes dimmed with the arrival of Christie, who spoke against gay marriage when asked about it during his campaign.

Associated Press correspondent Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.