Two Victories for Same-Sex Marriage
Same-sex marriage advocates made progress in Maine and Maryland on Thursday, January 26, 2012. Read about what happened and see how you can take action to defend marriage.
Maine, the state where the people overturned the actions of the legislature in 2009 by rejecting same sex marriage 53% to 47%, will have a referendum on the ballot in November. Maine is the only New England state without same-sex marriage or civil unions.
Same-sex marriage advocates in Maine have been working since August to collect the 100,000 signatures needed to put the initiative on the ballot. If successful, Maine would be the first state to allow same-sex marriage by a popular vote. It is already recognized in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont, and civil unions for same-sex couples are allowed in Rhode Island. Other states that allow gay marriage are New York and Iowa, along with Washington, D.C. Each of these was either by legislative action or court order.
“After the bitterly divisive campaign of 2009, in which Maine people clearly and decisively voted against changing the meaning of marriage, we’re dismayed that they would bring this issue back for yet another vote,” Brian Souchet, a spokesman for the Diocese of Portland, said in a statement.
On Thursday, January 26, 2012 the Maryland State Bar Association endorsed a same-sex marriage bill sponsored by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), a Catholic. A similar same-sex marriage bill passed the Maryland Senate last year but was defeated in the House of Delegates. Same-sex marriage supporters are hopeful the Governor’s support will be the needed key to victory this time. He announced his support on Monday, January 23, 2012 after having breakfast with same-sex couples in his home.
“At a time when Marylanders are struggling to find jobs, keep their homes and feed their families, our elected officials should focus their attention on the pressing needs of the state, not on dismantling Maryland’s long-standing law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” Mary Ellen Russell, the Maryland Catholic Conference executive director, said in a statement.
In August 2011, Archbishop Edwin O’Brien reached out to Governor O’Malley to remind him of the teachings of the Church and urge him to reconsider his support for such legislation. The Governor’s office released the correspondence to the media including his responses which try to distract from the issue at hand by highlighting other concerns of the Church.
Why is this important? What you can do if you don’t live in Maryland or Maine?
Supporters of same-sex marriage are attacking the issue state-by-state all with the help of the Obama administration in Washington, D.C. When President Obama announced the Department of Justice would no longer defend the 16-year-old Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), it opened the door to fight in the states. If the courts were to strike down DOMA, states would be forced to recognize other states’ definition of marriage. In addition, legislation has been introduced in the House and the Senate to repeal DOMA. H.R.1116 / S. 598 named the Respect for Marriage Act which actually seeks to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.
DOMA was passed by with a huge bi-partisan majority of over 80% of Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Speaker of the House John Boehner is leading the charge to have the co-equal legislative branch now take up DOMA’s defense in the courts. Even though S. 598 has had a hearing in the U.S. Senate, with a pro-marriage House of Representatives, there is little chance H.R. 1116 will move this Congress.
Visit the Catholic Advocate Action Center to send a message to Congress to stand up for DOMA and also oppose any of the legislative efforts to repeal the law.