The Unspoken Six [UPDATED]

With Brochin expressing support for marriage equality in Maryland, there remain six senators to persuade

With Maryland State Sen. Jim Brochin (D) confirming that he has changed his stance on marriage equality by expressing his support for Senate Bill 116, which would grant same-sex couples in the state marriage rights, there remain six senators who have yet to comment on which side they fall.

According to the Baltimore Sun, 21 Senators have stated that they will vote for the passage of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, while 20 have said they will vote against it.

The six senators, all Democrats, who have not declared which way they will vote are: Sen. John Astle, Sen. Joan Carter Conway, Sen. Ulysses Currie, Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, Sen. Katherine Klausmeier and Sen. James Rosapepe.

Though Conway has not released an official statement in support of the bill, Lisa Deane-Polyak, vice president of the board of directors at Equality Maryland, says Conway has told her constituents that if Senate Bill 116 receives 23 votes, she will be grant 24th vote in favor it. 24 votes are needed in the State Senate for the bill to pass. 

Brochin, who had previously opposed same-sex marriage, released his statement expressing support for Senate Bill 116 on Feb. 9, saying that he changed his mind after hearing “appalling” testimony from those in opposition of the bill.

“For me, the transition to supporting marriage has not been an easy one, but the uncertainty, fear, and second-class status that gays and lesbians have to put up with is far worse and clearly must come to an end.”

Deane-Polyak says Brochin’s change of heart demonstrates the power of testimonials.

“Hearings can be transformative,” she says.

“We saw that in action on Tuesday, because [Brochin] formally had one view, and to his credit he seemed to pay really close attention to the testimonies that were presented.”

“What he heard so affected him, he changed his mind. That’s the power of citizens coming forward and speaking their experience. There is no substitute for telling your legislator what your reality is instead of letting it be framed by some advertising campaign.”

The lead sponsor of the bill Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery), the only out gay member of Maryland’s Senate, told Metro Weekly on Feb. 10, that a vote is expected in committee next week, either on Wednesday, Feb. 16 or Thursday, Feb. 17.

Before that happens, Equality Maryland is scheduled to hold a rally and press conference on Feb. 14 at Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis to “to promote awareness of the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act (HB235) and the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act (SB116/ HB175).”

According to the equal rights organization, “500 carnations will be delivered to lawmakers representing each call made to district representatives asking them to support the marriage equality bill.”

Reacting to Tuesday’s hearing Madaleno said: “It was a great hearing for our side.”

“People got to hear the stories of same-gender families and the everyday challenges that we face not having marriage licenses and I think they also saw the empty arguments of the other side.”