It appears that one of two Maryland delegates to walk out of House Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday as it was preparing to approve legislation extending marriage to gay and lesbian couples is now ready to vote for the measure. In a statement issued early this morning Maryland Del. Tiffany Alston (D), a co-sponsor of the bill, said she needed “a little more time to weigh my final decision” on Tuesday, but was ready to commit to the legislation on Wednesday. “I believe all people should be treated equally regardless of their sexual orientation. … I have resolved that if and when the chairman calls the vote I will be ready to vote based on what I believe to be right.”
Still, the bill, which passed the Maryland Senate on Thursday and was expected to easily glide through the House, must attract 12 votes in Committee before receiving a final vote on the floor, meaning that even with Alston’s support, Del. Jill Carter — who joined Alston’s boycott — must also vote in favor of the legislation. But her plans still remain a mystery.
Yesterday, Carter said she was withholding support and “demanded that legislative leaders fast-track two other causes, an effort to restore education funding and a divorce-custody bill she is sponsoring, before she would return to cast what would be the decisive vote in bringing the marriage bill to the House floor“:
But Carter said there are “more important, or at least equally important” issues that she would like to see fast-tracked in the way that, in her view, gay marriage has been. And she said that until she hears from House leadership, she does not plan to cast a committee vote in favor of the Civil Marriage Protection Act. […]
Carter said lawmakers should be devoting their energy to restoring education funding cuts to Baltimore and Prince George’s County (Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget plan calls for several million dollars in reduced funding to those two jurisdictions) and to her own bill to provide a presumption of joint custody to divorcing couples.
She said that while she believes in the civil rights of gay couples who want to marry, she wants to “send a message to leadership” that there are other critical issues, too.
“It’s important, but there’s other very important things,” she said.
Carter said there’s no need to “fast-track” gay marriage since the 90-day session is only about half over and lawmakers are in their first year of a four-year term. She said she is “absolutely” willing to take a hit for withdrawing her support on gay marriage if it makes a larger point about her favored issues.
“I’m trying to leverage the vote to get something for my constituents,” she said.
Carter predicted the Judiciary Committee would not vote on gay marriage until House leadership has appeased her. “They can’t vote for the bill without my vote.”
Joe Sudbay points out that another judiciary member, Del. Sam Arora, may also be a potential problem. Arora “said he plans to vote for the bill in committee but has not made clear that he will vote for it on final passage”:
This bill deserves an up-or-down vote, so I’m voting to send it to the floor,” the Montgomery County Democrat said. He indicated that he would announce his intentions before the floor vote.