Maryland Marriage Coalition

Organizations join forces in seeking marriage equality legislation in Maryland in 2012

By Yusef Najafi
Published on July 14, 2011, 2:24am | Comments

LGBT rights organizations joined forces at Baltimore City Hall on Tuesday, July 12, to launch Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a coalition that seeks to secure marriage equality in Maryland during the 2012 legislative session.

Speaking after the Baltimore event, Lisa Polyak, chair of Equality Maryland, said the purpose of the press conference was to show ''what we've already known based on our personal relationships, which is that there is a broad coalition of not just people, but of organizations that support marriage equality.''

She added, ''This was like a coming out for those organizations to say, 'We've been with marriage equality and now we're going to let [everyone] know that we support marriage equality.'''

In addition to Equality Maryland, Marylanders for Marriage Equality includes Progressive Maryland, the American Civil Liberties Union, Communication Workers of America, Service Employees International Union, the Human Rights Campaign, and Freedom to Marry.

During the 2011 legislative session, Equality Maryland was able to get a marriage bill past the Senate floor, but it ultimately died on the floor of the House of Delegates when the bill was recommitted by the House Chairman Joseph Vallario (D-Calvert, Prince George's) back to committee for further discussion.

Polyak says advocates of marriage equality have always been cognizant of the difficulties in getting legislation secured in Maryland, but that they are not deterred.

''We knew when we signed up that this was going to be … an incremental process,'' she said, noting that it will require work in many venues. ''We're hoping that we're coming to an end of venues that need working but, certainly this is just the next step on the road.''

Sounding a positive note for the effort, Polyak said, ''There's a continuing hopefulness and an expectation that this change is not just coming, but that it's imminent.''

To help see that change is imminent, Kevin Nix, director of communications at HRC, said Sultan Shakir, regional field director at HRC, will work on loan with Progressive Maryland.

''Sultan is on loan to Progressive Maryland to do the field work,'' he says, adding that Shakir is the only full-time staffer from HRC to be assigned to such a post.

''Every coalition person comes to the table and offers their own resources and strengths and one of ours is field. So Sultan is going to be their guy.''

Speaking to Metro Weekly, Shakir said his main responsibility will be to bring people together for the marriage campaign.

''Today was great,'' Shakir said, ''We're adding new voices to this conversation and highlighting the support of diversity for marriage support in Maryland.''

That support includes Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other elected officials, including Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City), and Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery), who spoke at the Tuesday event.

In a press release issued on July 12, Rion Dennis, executive director of Progressive Maryland, said the event was about spreading a message of equality.

''The basic thread of any family is love, and Maryland should honor that love and the commitment of the thousands of gay and lesbian families who are seeking what we all seek: to protect our families.''