On Tuesday, Maryland Del. Tiffany Alston (D), a co-sponsor of a bill to expand marriage to the state’s gays and lesbians, walked out of the House Judiciary Committee’s scheduled vote on the measure because she needed “a little more time to weigh my final decision.” The following day she announced her intention to vote for the bill saying, “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.”
But now WTOP is reporting that Alston has had another change of heart and is considering substituting the marriage bill with a measure that would legalize civil unions in the state:
Alston says the change she is considering would allow Maryland residents to get civil union licenses if they wished to be married, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual.
She says she believes the change would be “a good balance,” but does not know if it would receive support from other committee members.
“I have what I believe to be a solution,” she says. “I don’t know if it will garner any political will or favor.”
Proponents of marriage equality are against the change, even as the bill struggles to make its way out of Committee and on to the House floor. Alston is the necessary 12th vote to move the bill forward, but a vote won’t come before tomorrow since Del. Jill Carter (D), the other lawmaker who boycotted the measure on Tuesday, is out sick.
Meanwhile, Del. Sam Arora (D), who promised to co-sponsor the bill, is also having second thoughts and has reportedly told some constituents that he will now vote against it. Some donors are now asking Arora for their money back. Last month, the bill suffered another setback after Del. Melvin Stukes (D), a co-sponsor of the measure for the past four years, withdrew his sponsorship. He claimed that he thought the bill, which is titled the Civil Marriage Protection Act, “would have given same-sex couples the right to obtain civil unions rather than marriage.”
Metro Weekly reports Arora will vote against the marriage bill on the floor.
A marriage equality bill may have enough votes to move to the House floor in Maryland and the issue may soon advance in Rhode Island. That’s in today’s State Marriage Watch:
– MARYLAND: The two delegates who walked out of a House Judiciary Committee preparing to vote a bill that would extend marriage to gays and lesbians are now ready to vote for the legislation, the Washington Times reports. Delegates Tiffany Alston (D) and Jill Carter (D) said Wednesday they are prepared to provide the 11th and 12the votes needed to move the bill to the House floor. The Maryland Senate passed the measure last week. Meanwhile, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is flooding the state with misleading direct mail warning residents about the “dangers” of same-sex marriage to children and families.
— NEW HAMPSHIRE: The House Judiciary Committee voted today to take repeal of the state’s same-sex marriage off the table this year. The 15-0 vote “effectively means two bills repealing the 2009 law won’t return to the full House of Representatives until early next year. There was no debate in committee about the move.”
– RHODE ISLAND: House Speaker Gordon D. Fox says he is “doing everything in his power” to move forward the state’s same-sex marriage legislation. A vote in the House Judiciary Committee could come as soon as March 10th, “the day that the Senate has scheduled a hearing on the Senate version of the legislation.” “Quite frankly, I know that we’re going to have the governor’s budget coming in next week, and the marriage-equality discussion is an important discussion but it’s the kind of discussion that can quickly dominate and [hinder] your ability to handle other issues,” Fox said.
– WYOMING: Lawmakers in the senate defeated a measure that would ban the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages, leaving the issue to the Wyoming Supreme Court. State senators John Hines (R) and Bill Landen (R) cast the deciding votes against the measure and “said they opposed it because it didn’t guarantee same-sex couples access to Wyoming courts to get a divorce or for other disputes.” Last week, lawmakers killed a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
– UTAH: On Monday, the Utah state senate “declined to schedule a hearing for a bill that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in housing and employment, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.”
– MICHIGAN: On Wednesday, the Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee approved a resolution to overturn ruling by the Civil Service Commission that would extend “benefits to same-sex partners and others living with 35,000 state employees.” Next week, the resolution, which is being framed as a cost-reduction measure, will move to full Senate, where it is expected to pass. It faces a more uphill battle in the House, where Republicans hold a smaller majority.
For a complete overview of the latest developments in the marriage battleground states of Rhode Island, Maryland, New York, California, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Wyoming, Iowa, and New Mexico, click here.
Last night, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) falsely accused the Obama administration of failing to enforce the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and announced that the House would act to uphold the Act in court. Appearing on Fox News’ On The Record, Boehner promised to lay out a specific strategy “in the next couple of days” but pledged, “we are going to intervene”:
BOEHNER: DOMA is the law of the land. It passed overwhelming in both the House and the Senate. And I think it’s outrageous for the president to say, Well, we’re not going to enforce it. It’s the law of the land. It’s the job of the Justice Department to defend the work of our government. And I just think it’s outrageous. We’re looking at our options, what’s available to us to intervene. The short — the long and short of this is that we are going to intervene. The question is how do we do it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Have you had any conversations with the executive branch, with the attorney general or the president about that?
VAN SUSTEREN: So everyone’s going to find out when, later this week, what…
BOEHNER: I’m hopeful we’ll have an answer here in the next couple of days.
Despite Boehner’s assertion, the Obama administration is still enforcing DOMA, even if it is no longer defending it. As Attorney General Eric Holder explained in a letter to Congressional leaders, “the President has informed me that Section 3 will continue to be enforced by the Executive Branch. To that end, the President has instructed Executive agencies to continue to comply with Section 3 of DOMA, consistent with the Executive’s obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, unless and until Congress repeals Section 3 or the judicial branch renders a definitive verdict against the law’s constitutionality.” The DOJ is complying with the law In the Ninth Circuit, where the administration is still opposing a federal employee’s “bid to obtain health insurance for her same-sex spouse.” In a filing on Monday, for instance, “DOJ attorneys reiterated that Obama told executive agencies to enforce the law until Congress repealed it — even though the administration would no longer defend its constitutionality in court.”
Yesterday, the Human Rights Campaign issued a release suggesting that increasing public support for gay unions could complicate the GOP’s efforts. In fact, as part of the suit Republicans would likely have to make some dubious arguments, including: “that gays and lesbians have not faced a history of discrimination, that one’s sexual orientation is in fact relevant to a person’s ability to contribute to society, that, contrary to the opinion of experts, sexual orientation is something that can be changed, that gays and lesbians are politically powerless and that the federal government is justified in violating the federalist tradition of leaving marriage and family law to the states.”
In July, a Federal District Court in Boston rejected these arguments and ruled that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional because it interferes with the traditional state right to define marriage and forces the state to “violate the equal protection rights of its citizens.”
Newt Gingrich helped secure hundreds of thousands of dollars for a successful effort to recall three judges who overruled Iowa’s law prohibiting same-sex marriages, the Los Angeles Times reports, as part of an effort to court social conservatives and make up for past personal transgressions ahead of a potential presidential bid:
Gingrich has also provided financial and strategic support for their causes. Last fall, he played a key behind-the-scenes role in an unprecedented — and successful — campaign to remove three Iowa Supreme Court judges who approved same-sex marriage in the state, helping secure $200,000 in seed money for the effort. [...]
“It wouldn’t have happened without Newt,” said David Lane, executive director of Iowa for Freedom, the organization that led the campaign. “Newt provided strategic advice and arranged the initial seed money, about $200,000, which is what got everything started.” The money came from an anonymous donor whose contribution was arranged by Gingrich, Lane said.
Robert L. Vander Plaats, chief spokesman for the judicial campaign, said the former speaker provided key strategic advice.
He said Gingrich had won over pastors in the state with his “open and transparent” approach. “Does the faith community have high standards? You bet,” said Vander Plaats, who was Huckabee’s state chairman in 2008. “But do we also understand that we all fall short of the standards? Yes, we do.”
Gingrich has previously publicly endorsed Iowa’s successful bid to recall three of the seven judges without disclosing any monetary contributions to the cause. “Iowans are unique in that they have the ability to send a very clear and simple message that the court’s behavior is unacceptable by just voting ‘no’ on the three judges who are up for reappointment,” Gingrich said in an interview with WHO-AM. “If a majority of Iowans vote ‘no,’ that will send a signal to the whole country that there is a citizens revolt under way.” “We’re going to have to fundamentally revisit how we deal with judges because the judicial branch has grown much too powerful and much too dictatorial and now regularly over reaches in telling us how to live,” he added.
Meanwhile, Plaats — who ran the recall campaign Gingrich donated to — is now heading up a new group called the The Family Leader, which is spearheading a campaign to revoke same-sex marriage in Iowa. Plaats, has embarked on a 99-county tour of the state and is hosting a presidential symposium with prominent Republicans to discuss “family” issues. The group also promotes widely discredited and hateful views about gay people and until recently described homosexuality as a public health crisis akin to smoking and endorsed discredited ex-gay reversal therapies.
This post has been updated to better reflect the accuracy of the Times Article.
As potential Republican presidential candidates try to grapple with the social issues rising in some of the early primary states and balance those concerns with the GOP’s purported focus on the economy, a new WSJ/NBC News Poll out today finds that GOP primary voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who says “the party should focus MORE on issues such as the economy and federal budget deficit and focus LESS on social issues as as gay marriage and abortion”:
Social conservative activists hope to keep culture issues like abortion and same sex marriage at the forefront of the GOP agenda and plan to extract commitments of support from Republican presidential contenders in the early primary states where these causes are already advancing.
In New Hampshire, where Republicans are already leading an effort to repeal the state’s same-sex marriage law, Hampshire Cornerstone — the anti-gay group spearheading the campaign — “will ask each Republican presidential candidate to sign a pledge agreeing marriage should be between one man and one woman.”
“Why not try to leverage the influence of the candidates to get them to declare their support for traditional marriage?” Smith told Roll Call earlier this week. “If you have a candidate saying they’re not willing to oppose same-sex marriage, I think they’ll have a problem. … We have a wide membership list. We’ll certainly let them know.”
In Iowa, Bob Vander Plaats of Family Leader is hosting his own presidential forum with Republican candidates and hopes to play kingmaker in that state’s caucus. Vander Plaats recently led a successful effort to recall three Iowa judges who overturned the state’s Defense of Marriage Act and is now lobbying lawmakers to approve a measure that would allow Iowans to vote on a referendum recognizing only marriages between one man and one woman.