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A group of about 50 activists, couples and legislators stood together in the Joint Hearing Room of Maryland’s Legislative Services Building in Annapolis this morning, Jan. 25, to support marriage equality by introducing a bill that would allow same-sex couples to legally wed in the state.
”It’s time that we get full marriage equality and that we get it in 2011,” Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola (D-Montgomery), who is straight, said after Darrell Carrington, of Equality Maryland’s board of directors, introduced the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act.
If passed, the bill, drafted by Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery), the only openly gay member of Maryland’s Senate, and Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery), would allow same-sex couples to engage in civil marriage, while also protecting the rights of religious institutions to handle issues of marriage equality however they see fit. According to Equality Maryland, a House version of the bill will be introduced in the near future.
While Madaleno was not at the event due to committee obligations, and Raskin arrived late, also due to a committee obligation, those who did speak included lesbian Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery).
”For thousands of GLBT Marylanders a marriage license is worth more than the paper it’s printed on,” she told the crowd. ”While it’s love that makes a family, it’s marriage that protects a family.”
Organizations that helped present the event in addition to Equality Maryland included: the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland, the Human Rights Campaign, the Maryland Black Family Alliance, Catholics for Equality, Pride and Faith, Progressive Maryland and Freedom to Marry.
Sean Eldridge, political director for Freedom to Marry, said the country is taking steps toward equality and the ”sky has not fallen” in D.C. or states that have passed marriage-equality legislation.
”Americans are looking at their gay neighbors and colleagues and family members and realizing that they deserve the same treatment and the same respect as everyone else,” he said. ”At the end of the day this about loving couples who have committed to spending their lives together, … who need the need the critical safety net of rights and protections that come only with marriage.”
Lea Gilmore, outreach director of the Maryland Black Family Alliance, said the event marked a ”great day.”
”As a woman, as a citizen of Maryland, as woman who has been married 27 years to the Rev. T. Gilmore, and as a person of deep faith, this a great day,” she said.
”As African American, we more than most know how damaging discrimination can be. When you exclude any group of citizens from legal protections, it damages all of us. … I stand with you not in spite of my faith, but because of my faith.”
For more information about the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, call Equality Maryland at 410-685-6567 or visit equalitymaryland.org.