Monday, May 05, 2008

Gays vs. the Governor

The Sun reported yesterday on growing dissatisfaction among gays against Governor O’Malley. But in fact, resentment towards the Governor has been building inside the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community for at least eight months.

Last September, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that state law forbids same-sex marriage. While the Governor did not have a hand in the ruling itself, he released this statement to the Washington Blade:

I look forward to reading the Court's full opinion, but as we move forward, those of us with the responsibility of passing and enforcing laws have an obligation to protect the rights of all individuals equally, without telling any faith how to define its sacraments… I respect the Court's decision.
Gays across the state immediately took this as a betrayal. What did the court’s decision on civil marriage have to do with any religion’s sacraments? And why did the Governor fail to include a right to marriage as one of the rights that should be protected for “all individuals equally?” The plaintiffs in the marriage lawsuit immediately unveiled emails sent to them by the Governor expressing his support for marriage rights as recently as August 2005. Blade editor and blogger Kevin Naff fumed:

As gay Marylanders were reeling from the high court decision upholding the state’s marriage ban – shedding tears and canceling wedding plans – the governor released a statement that didn’t offer sympathy or condolences. Instead, he said he respected the court’s decision – an opinion unparalleled in its gratuitously offensive language – and that lawmakers shouldn’t tell religions how to define the sacraments.

With that statement, O’Malley kicked us all at a time when we were down and we should not forget it. No more gay money. No more gay votes. No more door-to-door gay support or green bumper stickers or yard signs. After distinguishing himself as a brash young politician of a new generation, he has revealed himself to be a typical climber, so blinded by national ambition that he would break any promise to pad his resume and preserve his power.
Neither marriage nor civil unions passed in the 2008 general session, but bills providing gay partners the right to visit each other in the hospital and limited exemptions from some property taxes did pass. One sticking point was on partnership benefits for state employees. The Governor says the state cannot afford them despite the fact that their cost – about $3 million per year – equals approximately 0.02% of the state’s general fund. That helped to prompt this comment from one of the state’s most prominent gay rights leaders:

“There's just not a lot to be enthusiastic about, because the governor hasn't done much to help us move forward,” said Dan Furmansky, director of Equality Maryland, a leading gay rights group. “Why did the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community work so hard to elect this person? What do we have to show for it at this point?”
Make no mistake: marriage equality is inevitable, regardless of O’Malley’s calculations and vacillations. Perhaps it will come to pass under Governor Doug Gansler.