Friday, February 25, 2011

Baltimore City Councilman Bill Henry on Marriage Equality

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Bill Henry. I am the councilman for the 4th District of Baltimore City and I bring greetings on behalf of my colleagues on the Baltimore City Council.

Before you today is House Bill 175, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act. In the bill file, there should be a copy of Baltimore City Council Resolution 08-0013R, in which we took a position supporting this legislation.

Ladies and gentlemen, supporting this legislation is the right thing to do. To those of you who have already decided to be with us in this fight, I offer my most heartfelt thanks and ask that you share the following with your colleagues not here today. To those of you who are undecided, or have already decided to allow the status quo to continue, I ask you to consider the following:

This bill may not be popular with some of your constituents. You may be personally uncomfortable with the issue itself, much less with the idea of openly and visibly supporting the vocal minority whose rights are restored by this legislation. Regardless, it is the right thing to do and on behalf of the thousands of same-sex couples here in Maryland that are discriminated against every day, I ask you for your support.

If you yourself are not in a same-sex relationship, perhaps it is easy for you to dismiss this issue as somebody else’s problem, but the fact is, even those of us not directly affected have co-workers, friends, and family whose rights are being restricted. And please believe me when I say that if you don’t think you do, it’s only because - evidently - they don’t think that you can handle the truth…

It is not my intention to embarrass any of you, or spot you in front of those constituents of yours that disagree. I am making this particular ask, honestly and candidly, because I do not distinguish between the current law banning same-sex couples from marrying and the laws of previous generations which banned couples of different races – such as my own parents - from marrying.

I acknowledge that there are those who find it “wrong and unnatural” today for same-sex couples to marry. Sadly, they are expressing the same sentiments as those who thought it similarly “wrong and unnatural” for blacks and whites to marry forty years ago. Those sentiments were wrong then and they are still wrong today.

My generation has benefited from an evolution of that thinking; my family in particular, has benefited. My daughters and I, literally, would not be here today if past legislators had not had the courage to ignore the complaints of their more conservative constituents and do what was right. I ask you to honor their memory and support this bill. Thank you.