To say that Maryland Delegate Sam Arora (D) has struggled with marriage equality is an understatement. When he campaigned for office in 2010, Equality Maryland endorsed him because he indicated support for marriage equality, and he even co-sponsored the legislation when it was first introduced last year. But when it came time to vote, Arora wavered and ultimately conceded that he opposed marriage equality and only wanted to support civil unions.
But now the question has come back around, and the stakes are high for Arora. The Maryland House of Delegates is set to begin debate on marriage equality legislation today with a vote by tomorrow, and at last count, the bill is one vote short of passage. Sam Arora could be that savior of marriage equality — and likely be forgiven his trespasses — but only if he is able to realize that he only stands to benefit by doing the right thing.
Jay Hutchins was one of Arora’s Democratic primary challengers in 2010. In an interview with ThinkProgress today, Hutchins — who intends to run again in 2014 —warned Arora that his constituents support marriage equality, which he agreed is a “civil rights issue”:
HUTCHINS: I know people in District 19 very well, and what I’m hearing is that people are extremely supportive, and the sentiment is that the entire Montgomery County delegation should vote for it… I’m ashamed marriage equality hasn’t happened yet in Maryland. We’ll look back and view it the same way we view other discrimination laws in the past and wonder, “How could that be?”
As John Aravosis points out, Arora has a lot to gain politically by collaborating with Gov. Martin O’ Malley (D) and his party, but Arora’s opportunity to side with the future rather than the past extends far beyond Maryland politics. A rising tide lifts all boats, and as LGBT equality advances, every politician has to decide whether to sink or swim with it. The past year has yielded huge milestones for same-sex couples, including majority support for marriage rights, plus advances in New York, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, and Washington. And supporting the LGBT community has been good for politicians — the Republicans who supported New York’s marriage equality law last year are actually seeing huge increases to their campaign fundraising.
Supporting marriage equality is good for Arora’s constituents, good for his state and country, and most importantly, good for his own career. He has a second chance to make the right choice, and he has everything to gain if he makes it.