[Photo: Maryland out gay Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery) speaks at a news conference on July 22, 2011, in which Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) announced his support for a marriage equality bill in the state in 2012. (Photo by Yusef Najafi.)]
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley (D) met with Marylanders for Marriage Equality, members of the LGBT legislative caucus, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown and others to announce his support for marriage equality legislation in the state in 2012.
"Marylanders of all walks of life want their children to live in a loving, stable, committed home, protected under the law," he said. "[T]he legislation we plan to introduce in the 2012 legislative session will protected religious freedom and equality of martial rights under the law."
What's changed since the bill stalled in this year's legislative session, O'Malley added, was the urgency of this type of legislation, saying that in 2012 it will be a priority and that he would make it an "administration priority."
Brown echoed that sentiment, adding that he's enthusiastic about working with O'Malley and lawmakers to ensure equality for all Marylanders.
"Every member of our community should enjoy the same freedoms and share the same responsibilities," Brown said.
Joining the governor at the podium in the Governor's Reception Room at the Maryland State House in Annapolis was, at one point, Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery), who is the only out LGBT state senator and was the lead sponsor of marriage equality legislation during the 2011 session. Madaleno said the governor's announcement created "the second exciting moment" he will experience in the Governor's Reception Room.
"It will only be surpassed by the moment in the next nine months that we will stand here, with your pen in hand, signing into law the marriage equality bill," he said, receiving loud applause.
O'Malley pointed to New York, saying that the state's lawmakers showed that it is possible to protect religious freedoms and provide marriage equality to all of its citizens.
"That's what we are going to do with this bill in the upcoming session."
Although a 2011 marriage equality bill was shelved in the state's House of Delegates, when it was recommitted back to committee, O'Malley says he's optimistic that there is enough time to secure votes for passage of similiar legislation in 2012.
"I'm very optimistic that if all of us work hard and if all of us stay focused on the important principles at stake here -- which are freedom of religion and also equal protection under the law and the dignity of every individual -- that we can pull together the necessary votes for passage."
Asked about his thoughts on a referendum effort for a 2012 marriage equality bill by opponents of it, if it does pass the House and Senate successfully, O'Malley said: "That's their right under our laws."
"That's not my primary focus," he added. "I'm focused on working with this broad coalition to pass marriage equality laws that respect and protect rights equally under the law. What others do in terms of referendum and those sorts of appeals, it's their right, each citizen needs to do their duty under the law as they see it and I'm doing mine as governor as I see it."
Out lesbian Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County) said the governor's support of marriage equality legislation will make a great impact during the next legislative session.
"There's no bigger megaphone in the statehouse than the governor," Mizeur said, talking to Metro Weekly after the press conference.
"For him to be the captain of our team is going to be an incredible boost in momentum for the next session and we're going to get this done."
[Photo: O'Malley (Photo by Yusef Najafi.)]