Maryland state Sen. Allan H. Kittleman (R-Carroll, Howard) raised eyebrows last week by announcing that he would be introducing a civil-unions bill for Maryland couples.
For LGBT advocates in Maryland, the move was a bit odd as those from the state's equal-rights organization Equality Maryland would argue that Maryland has never been so close to achieving full marriage-equality rights for same-sex couples.
''I know Sen. Kittleman has had interactions with lots of LGBT constituents in his district,'' Equality Maryland Executive Director Morgan Meneses-Sheets says. ''They've generally felt like he's been responsive, but his voting record is pretty mixed on the issues. That makes us a little suspicious about his intentions. He's not reached out to us – the group that leads this effort – to talk to us about this.''
But Meneses-Sheets says the organization has reached out to Kittleman, who agreed to meet with Equality Maryland Jan. 13.
Speaking to Metro Weekly, Kittleman says the purpose of his bill would be to allow for civil unions for both same-gender and opposite-gender couples, and leave ''marriage'' up to religious institutions without government interference.
''My point is not to say that marriage has to be between a man and woman, my point is that I believe marriage should not be governed by the government.''
Still, Meneses-Sheets says she is suspicious.
''While we appreciate that a Republican leader would want to try to address the issue of protection for gay and lesbian couples, we're very concerned about what the bill will really look like and the impact that it could have,'' she says.
''He was actually quoted as saying one of the reasons he was looking at doing this is because he thinks it's important that we protect marriage as an institution. That's very insulting to gays and lesbians,'' she says.
''We don't need to protect marriage from loving and committing couples. That tells me a little something. We will accept nothing less than full equality.''
For more information about Equality Maryland, visit equalitymaryland.org.