Good news from Maryland.
The fight for marriage equality in Maryland took a giant step forward tonight as the State Senate voted to approve a bill that extends legal marriage to same-sex couples. The legislation now heads to the House of Delegates for debate. If it wins approval in the lower chamber, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has vowed to sign the bill into law.
The bill’s openly gay co-author, Sen. Rich Madaleno, was a leading force in persuading his colleagues to support the measure. Madaleno told Gay Politics last year that an increase in the number of openly gay and lesbian state legislators would have an impact on their straight colleagues. ”Just by having out people there to participate in the conversation fundamentally alters the discussion. The tenor of the conversation changes. It humanizes it,” Madaleno said.
Maryland has seven openly gay and lesbian state lawmakers, six of whom serve in the House of Delegates.
Obviously good news, but also note the role that electing LGBTQ legislators on the state level played in changing the conversation. In Maryland, LGBTQ legislators “humanize” the rhetoric around the dialogue — “gays” suddenly become your colleagues leading lives probably similar to the other electeds.
While we don't have this dialogue on a state level, a positive step forward is electing local leaders who are openly gay and willing to have those significant conversation. City Councilman Bruce Kraus, for example, changes the dynamic on the regional level simply by being at the table as a peer to those who might otherwise not really know an openly gay person. Electeds don't have to preach, they simply need to be themselvces as they work on budget, parking and gas drilling issues.
Meanwhile, Hawaii has embraced civil unions. The legislation was signed by the Governor and goes into effect in January 2012. This makes civil unions available to both same sex and opposite sex couples. Read what Hawaii Equality has to report on how the legislation moved forward and what sort of impact this step toward marriage equality will have for resident of Hawaii.
Pennsylvania has legislation for both civil unions (House Bill 708) and mariage equality (SB461 ) on the table. It will be interesting to see how these bills progress through a very Republican controlled state government.