Baseball is just around the corner, don’t expect the references to stop now.
The struggle for marriage equality continues today as Maryland, Rhode Island, New York, and Hawaii are all on the verge of passing bills in the legislature that would grant either marriage or civil unions to same-sex couples. Maryland in particular is on the verge of becoming only the fifth state in the Union to allow gay marriage (marriage is legal in Washington DC, as well as in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampsire, and Vermont).
The issue that has been unfolding over the last several weeks is now evolving and changing daily. Governor O’Malley has already voiced his support for the bill and is prepared to sign it into law if passed. Democratic State Senator James Brochin, who previously opposed the bill, has just changed positions after what he said was “appalling” testimony from marriage opponents. “Witness after witness demonized homosexuals, vilified the gay community, and described gays and lesbians as pedophiles.”
One Republican Senator, Allan Kittleman, has been brave enough to stand in tow with 20 other senators who support the bill (18 of whom are Democrats). Kittleman, who had served as the Minority Whip of his party, stepped down from his position as a result of his support.
The bill is expected to pass through committee and make it to the floor next week where it will need 24 votes to make it to O’Malley’s desk. Six senators remain undecided, all of whom are Democrats who come from districts with high African-American populations.
Maryland is a particularly interesting state to follow in this debate, as seven legislators are openly gay. Many have credited their advocacy as a large part in this bill’s continued success so far.
“I would probably think that having members of the General Assembly who are very well-respected people that you work with every day, that you have relationships with, I think it makes it difficult to say to them that you don’t deserve the same rights that I do. I think that might have something to do with it,” says Delegate Eric M. Bromwell, who is sponsoring the bill.
On Tuesday, Maryland’s legislature held public hearings to discuss the bill. Hundreds of supporters and opponents alike flooded the hearing room to give their testimony. Included was 14-year-old Maya Polyak, who spoke in defense of her two mothers.
The public forum has changed drastically over the years. New media and technology has revolutionized the way ordinary citizens can communicate and discuss topics of concern. This blog, for instance, is one of those new ways that up until a few years ago would not have been possible. The public sphere is no longer limited in scope or location. It’s everywhere, all the time. But that doesn’t seem to have stopped engaged citizens from participating in these public hearings that allow for the type of discourse that democracy intended.
We mustn’t be afraid of those whose aim is take away rights. The marketplace of ideas, despite frustration over the pace of progress, works. And it will work here. It has already changed the hearts and minds of many, including Senator Brochin. Those who support marriage equality are on the right side of history. Love is like light. You can’t put it out.