Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ryan Spiegel on Marriage Equality

Gaithersburg City Councilmember Ryan Spiegel testified at the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Hearing on the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protect Act:

Good afternoon. My name is Ryan Spiegel and I am proud to serve as a member of the Gaithersburg City Council, representing 60,000 residents and hundreds of businesses. I am also on the executive board of the Montgomery County Chapter of the Maryland Municipal League, though I am testifying as an individual today.

I *support* marriage equality. As an attorney with extensive experience in civil rights law, I strongly endorse the lofty aspirations for justice and equality so eloquently conveyed by other witnesses today, so I won't repeat what they've said.

But as a municipal elected official for one of the largest cities in Maryland, I am here to offer a pragmatic perspective on our efforts to emerge from the global recession. Local leaders throughout the state have been focused like a laser on the economy, stretching the limits of our imagination to explore every possible avenue for creating jobs -- and maintaining and growing opportunity for local businesses large and small -- particularly as the state government has been forced to reduce aid to local jurisdictions.

Right now, because marriage equality is already in effect just down the road in the District of Columbia, countless dollars are being diverted away from Maryland, to Washington D.C.'s hotels, restaurants, ballrooms, flourists, caterers, tailors -- not to mention all the attorneys, accountants, financial planners, and others who provide services to couples after they are married. Right now, many of our businesses are losing a critical sector of clientele, and in the process, we are not preventing anyone who wants to get married from doing so. So many of our businesses are missing out on a tremendous opportunity, because of a legal roadblock that - years from now - will seem like an antiquated notion.

If you believe in giving the best free-market advantage to our state's businesses, then I respectfully urge you to support this bill, and to remove obstacles to our competitiveness -- even if you are not personally comfortable with the notion of LGBT marriage.

To be clear, I believe in my heart that passing this bill is the right thing to do from a moral and legal standpoint. But I am here today to underscore that it is also the right thing to do from an economic standpoint. Of course, this bill won't force any vendors to be available for LGBT weddings if they don't want to be, but we need to level the playing field for those Maryland businesses that do. It's just one more reason to support this bill.

I thank the chair and the committee for your consideration.