Fight for Same-Sex Marriage Continues in Md.

Stephanie Snowden, a retired long-time worker of the Montgomery County Public School system, had always hoped to make a commitment to marriage. Until recently, however, her dreams of the sacred sanction seemed to be impossible.

“I had to hide [my sexuality] for a long time,” Snowden said. “But as I got older, my family knew and my son knew, so I didn’t care who else did. Linda and I were happy that same-sex marriages were legalized in D.C.”

In August of 2010, Snowden and her longtime partner, Linda Scales were legally married in a Washington courthouse, in a small ceremony with their families. Although longtime residents of Maryland, the couple had to travel to the district to marry legally because of the lack of same-sex marriage legislation in their state.

The fight for same-sex marriage equality in Maryland was lost in 2011 when the bill breezed through Maryland Senate but was quickly stalled in the House due to legislators’ concerns over religious and family values. Since then, Maryland’s Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley and other legislators have been trying to make slight changes to help protect religious institutions but recognize the marriage of same-sex couples.

A recent poll conducted by the Washington Post revealed that 50 percent of Marylanders support same-sex marriage while 44 percent are opposed. 

Still, the bill remains debated.    

The illegality of same-sex marriages in Maryland has driven couples, like Snowden and Scales, to travel to sometimes neighboring, but often distant regions to tie the knot legally.

“Before gay marriage was legalized in D.C., Linda and I were making plans to travel to Connecticut to get married,” Snowden said.

To alleviate the stress and, what Snowden calls, the “unfair” treatment of same-sex couples in the state, O’Malley has made getting the same-sex marriage bill passed one of his top priorities for 2012. Already, O’Malley has hosted a breakfast at his residence for supporters of the bill to discuss how to achieve success this time around.

O’Malley is not the only Maryland official who is taking part in the fight for marriage equality.

Earlier this month, a few mayors of Maryland, including Chevy Chase Mayor David Lubin, became part of Mayors for Freedom to Marry, headquartered in New York.

The bipartisan group has contributed to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the district and six states, including New York and Iowa. The group partners with both individuals and other organizations to promote and campaign for same-sex marriage, in hopes that all 50 states will soon recognize all marriages.

Lubin said that his main reason for becoming a part of Mayors for Freedom to Marry is because he “would like to get married.”

“I hope that the bill will pass so that all Maryland families can have the same rights, protections and responsibilities,” Lubin said. “It’s just about treating all families and relationships with the same dignity that everyone deserves, as the governor recently put it.”

Snowden has had to deal with the problems that come with the illegality of same-sex marriage in Maryland and the unfair treatment against which O’Malley and Lubin are fighting.

In 2009, Snowden suffered from a stroke and was hospitalized for a week.  Although they had not legally gotten married yet, Snowden told hospital workers that Scales was her wife so they could speak with her about her medical condition.  Unfortunately for the couple, the doctors and nurses chose not to recognize the relationship and instead, talked to Snowden’s then 20-year-old son about her condition. The experience left Snowden frustrated.

With the perseverance of legislators around the state, Lubin is hopeful that unfortunate situations — like the one Snowden experienced — will disappear.

Along with being part of Mayors for Freedom, Lubin is vice chair of Equality Maryland and, last year, held a fundraiser for the group in Chevy Chase.

Equality Maryland, headquartered in Baltimore, is the largest Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender advocacy groups in Maryland. It fights for gay rights and works to eliminate discrimination towards and stereotyping of the LGBT community.

Marylanders of all ages are fighting with Equality Maryland, including Joshua Dowling, a student at the University of Maryland in College Park. Dowling, a member of the school’s LGBT organizations, participated in the group’s lobby day in February of last year.

“The failure of the bill because of a few cowardly delegates [was] a slap in the face to the LGBT activists and citizens throughout the state, saying ‘you’re not equal’ and in some cases, ‘you’re not normal,”” Dowling said.

A number of Maryland lawmakers, including Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. (D-Baltimore County) and Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County), continue their opposition of the same-sex marriage bill. However, Lubin is proud of the Marylanders who are fighting for equality.

“We’re lucky to have so many mayors supporting us, [Mayors for Freedom to Marry], around the state, from Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in Baltimore City to Bruce Williams in Takoma Park,” Lubin said.  “It just shows how many people from diverse parts of urban, suburban and rural America support marriage equality.”


UPDATE: Roughly a week after the Maryland House of Delegates voted 72-67– just one more vote than the required number to pass– on a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state, Maryland State Senate voted 25-22 for the law.  Governor Martin O’Malley is expected to sign the bill into a law Thursday.  Opponents remain strong in their vow to bring the bill to referendum in November to put it on the ballet for voters to decide.