Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Saqib Ali and Nancy King Discuss Progressive Issues, Part Two

Part Two: Civil Rights and Marriage Equality.

By Delegate Saqib Ali (D-39).

What are the biggest civil rights challenges of our time? Equal pay for equal work? Ending racial profiling? Demanding accountability for torture? These are all ugent issues. But as a state legislator, the one that seems most immediately fixable to me is giving same-sex couples equal marital rights. I am in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. Six other states have already legalized it. And that building wave will be coming to Maryland soon enough. Increasingly this is becoming a bi-partisan issue. Even former Vice President Dick Cheney -- certainly no liberal -- recently came out in favor of marriage equality.

In my three years as a public official (and even before that), I have literally taken every opportunity (and created new opportunities!) to advocate in favor of full marriage equality:

• In 2006 as a candidate challenging incumbents in a "conservative" district I said "I’m in favor of expanding civil rights for all citizens of Maryland. To that end, I support amending our constitution to allow same-sex marriages. I don’t see how allowing same-sex marriages will weaken the traditional institution of marriage for any other members of society."

• In 2008 I co-sponsored the marriage-equality bill.

• In 2009 I co-sponsored the marriage-equality bill.

• On July 31st, I wrote a column in the Gazette emphasizing marriage-equality's importance saying “My stance on this issue isn't politically expedient. I am the first Muslim in the legislature. Homosexuality is strictly forbidden in Islam. As such I have evinced much grief from my most conservative supporters. But I recognize that I represent people of all faiths and no faith at all. If I tried to enforce religion by law - as in a theocracy - I would be doing a disservice to both my constituents and to my religion.”

• On August 11th, I gave an interview on NPR discussing my position on Marriage Equality.
Nancy has a starkly different opinion on this important civil rights issue. Although she has supported expanding certain rights for same-sex couples, she opposes full marriage equality. When asked in 2006 if the Constitution should be modified to allow same-sex marriages, she responded "It is already in Maryland State Law that marriage is between a man and a woman. There is no reason to change the Constitution when it is already in the law."

I'm hopeful that Nancy will change her mind on this important civil-rights issue. Probably when she gives it some careful thought she'll come out on the side of fairness. I think most Montgomery County residents will agree that it's simply the right thing to do. :-)