Maryland passes marriage equality!

You can now add The Free State to this map! Last night, Maryland became the 8th state in the country to approve same-sex marriage after the Senate approved the legislation 25-22. The final vote came less than a week after the House narrowly passed the bill with one vote above the minimum needed for passage. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) will sign the marriage equality law sometime next week, although opponents have vowed to put the new law on the ballot in November for voters to decide.

According to The Baltimore Sun, the new law faces some uncertainty if opponents succeed in putting it on the ballot:

Implementation of the measure is far from certain. Even supporters concede that the law will likely be petitioned to referendum, and they expect Maryland voters to have the final say in November. The legislation has an effective date of January 2013 — well after the November election.

“We move on to the next phase,” said Senate Republican leader E.J. Pipkin, who tried to defeat the bill. “There will be a robust referendum effort.” Recent polls have shown that Marylanders are evenly split on the issue, so it is difficult to predict what will happen at the ballot box.

Possibly having voters decide the fate of a law that was fairly and democratically voted for by our representatives and senators is shameful. We need to hold our government accountable in its role of protecting our civil liberties and equal access to the law, regardless of gender, race, sexuality and religion.

Marriage equality opponents who ask voters to be the arbitrator of civil rights when the law has already been secured is equally horrifying as our neighboring state legislature (I’m looking at you, Virginia) attempting to implement state sanctioned rape and stripping women of their right to privacy when seeking legal abortions. On both sides of the Potomac, it’s conservatives who are intent on trampling the rights of others and fighting the growing wave of support for gay marriage and reproductive rights across the country by any means necessary.

And for what? What are they so afraid of? Because God-forbid we decide for ourselves who to love and marry, or make personal, medical decisions without the intrusion and control of government, when for much of our history, government has strictly regulated who we can and can’t marry and made many of us second-class citizens because of our sex, race and sexual orientation. I thought that the holy Grail of conservatism and Republicanism was less government intrusion in our lives, but it hasn’t been for a long time.

Tomorrow I’m participating in the Young Democrats of Maryland convention in Baltimore and marriage equality is on the agenda. I’m hoping to gain some insight into challenging what will surely be a sustained effort by opponents to garner enough petition signatures to put the law to voters in November. Stay tuned!

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