Op-Ed: Did Cowardice Kill Same-Sex Marriage…and Will It Do It Again?


In light of the same-sex marriage bill recently getting voted back out of committee and to the Maryland House of Delegates, it seems like a good time to consider the issue.

In particular, I find myself drawn to the (quickly withdrawn) words of Catherine O’Malley, our governor’s wife, on the bill’s failure last year:

“We didn’t expect things that happened to the House of Delegates to occur, but sadly they did, and there were some cowards that prevented it from passing.”

Contrary to many on the Right, I’m going to come out and say it – even if she’s claimed she regrets her remarks, I think she’s right. The same-sex marriage bill was killed by cowardice.

  • First and foremost, it was killed by her husband’s cowardice.

Last year Gov. O’Malley was effectively silent on the question of same-sex marriage. As the top Democrat in the state, he could have easily rolled out the Democratic machine on behalf of the bill, leaning hard on wayward Delegates of his Party and twisting arms as necessary to ensure the votes were there. But he took the easy route and cravenly kept quiet and let the bill die.

  • Secondly, it was killed by the cowardice of Democratic legislators.
Del. Arora

Del. Arora

Over the process of the same-sex marriage debate, multiple Democrats in the state legislature, such as Del. Tiffany Alston and Del. Jill Carter who both sponsored the House version of the bill, only to back away as soon as it became controversial (Carter ended up supporting the bill, Alston voted against it).

Also, Del. Sam Arora gets double points for cowardice – after campaigning in large part on his commitment to same-sex marriage, he started backtracking on his promises (even scrubbing references of support from his Twitter account) only to then get even squishier when discovered, committing to vote for the bill while encouraging it’s ultimate defeat.

  • Thirdly, it was killed by cowardly churches that worked against the bill.

For all the talk of being opposed due to religious principles, the fervent church opposition, particularly in Prince George’s County, I don’t think they’re so deserving of credit.

Two reasons for this. First, if the churches truly had the courage of their convictions and faith in the superiority of their views, they wouldn’t care if government recognized same-sex marriages. The differences between traditional and same-sex marriages would be so stark that no person would equate the two, even if government did. Seeking to use government to maintain the illegality of same-sex marriages, that’s the action of a coward who doesn’t think he can win in the marketplace of ideas.

Also, I think it is equally cowardly because it meant cravenly hiding behind religion while pushing mere personal preferences. As I’ve pointed out before, civil marriage and sacramental marriage aren’t the same thing. The first is a contractual relationship recognized by government, the second is a compact with and before God.

And what were the words of Christ concerning the relationship between man, state, and God?

They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

It seems abundantly clear to me that as the two are separate entities, one clearly in the domain of the state and the other the domain of God, that honoring Christ’s command requires not attempting to use religious faith as a justification for opposing same-sex civil marriage.

  • Fourth, and finally, it was killed by at least a few callow Republican legislators.

A bit after the 2011 legislative session I was talking with one of the Republican members of the House of Delegates (I won’t name names) and it was clearly intimated to me that the Delegate thought my position in support of same-sex marriage was the right one but it wasn’t one said Delegate could support due to the constituents of the district.

Politically sensible? Certainly, but just as certainly cowardice. Real courage means bucking the demands of your constituency and the consensus of your Party in order to what you know to be right.

Sen. Kittleman

Sen. Kittleman

Sen. Allan Kittleman deserves huge amounts of credit for this. I don’t think there is anyone who has demonstrated more courage in this debate than he has in being the lone elected Republican in Maryland to stand up for same-sex marriage.

  • The question remains though – will cowardice once again prevent same-sex marriage in Maryland from becoming a reality?

It seems clear that Gov. O’Malley plans to push the bill this time. While I think this is a matter of political opportunism rather than any principled stand, at least that’s one thing in the bill’s favor.

Del. Costa

Del. Costa

Also on the positive side,  rumours that some Republican legislators were on the fence have turned out true, with both Del. Bob Costa and Del. Wade Kach coming out in support of the bill.

Del. Kach

Del. Kach

On the other hand, I’m skeptical much will change for the other two factors.

Looking at the recent committee hearing vote tally in the House, it seems that Carter is sticking firm in support of the bill, while Alston remains cowed and Arora is even more craven than last year, refusing to vote yes or no.

I certainly don’t expect any Road to Damascus moment from the churches who lead the fight against the bill and will really be the biggest stumbling block to passage.

On the balance though, I suspect the Democratic machine that Gov. O’Malley can and will bring into play will be enough to overcome the obstacles to passage, but it will probably still be close.

But watch for a referendum, where the bill in all likelihood will be killed, setting back civil freedoms even further in our supposedly liberal state.

Letters to Editor

  1. Joan Smith says:

    The opponents of gay marriage are on the wrong side of history. Period. It will happen. There is too much support for it among younger people, and my generation and the generation before mine will sadly be remembered, at least in this instance, for our shocking and inexplicable bigotry.

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