Friday, September 21, 2007

MD Gov. Betrays Gays

O'Malley betrays gays
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is the new Mitt Romney.
Just when you thought a politician could sink no lower in the duplicitous art of flip-flopping comes the hidden tale of how O'Malley assured gay rights activists and plaintiffs in the Maryland marriage case that he supported same-sex marriage, only to reverse course and ultimately invoke his Catholic religious beliefs to justify his support of discrimination.
It’s an all-too-familiar story of a Democratic candidate promising to stand up for an all-too-loyal gay constituency, then kicking us when we’re down.
That’s an apt description of O’Malley’s actions this week. 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.
For someone whose own marriage has been the subject of endless rumors of infidelity (how many couples have had to call a press conference to announce they don’t cheat?), O’Malley sure has a lot of nerve denigrating gay families.
But back to that flip-flop. After repeatedly telling Maryland’s gay rights leaders that he backed gay marriage in 2004 and as late as August 2005, O’Malley abruptly rediscovered his Catholic roots, no doubt after his gubernatorial campaign manager told him to. In a 2004 meeting and in multiple e-mails to plaintiff Lisa Polyak, O’Malley expressed his support for same-sex marriage. He even reiterated that support in a televised interview, which lives on at (Search for "Maryland lawmaker marriage.")
Then came the courageous ruling of Judge Brooke Murdock in January 2006 that the state’s marriage law discriminated against gay couples. That’s when O’Malley, now under the control of handlers, campaign managers and other poll-driven advisers, had his epiphany and announced that he was raised to believe marriage is between a man and woman.
Gay activists were angry but in a private meeting, O’Malley disavowed his earlier statements of support anyway. Rather than assail his naked hypocrisy, the gay community stood by O’Malley because they so desperately wanted Bob Ehrlich out of office. Be careful what you wish for.
This is what happens when we blindly hand our support to candidates and demand nothing in return. We get screwed. Well, gay Marylanders got just what we deserved this week when O’Malley announced his “respect” for the court decision. When will gays learn that subjugating ourselves to any one party is a doomed strategy?
Just look at what has followed the court’s decision. First came O’Malley’s offensive statement, which ignores the fact that the debate is over state-sanctioned civil rights, not religion. Then he hinted to the Baltimore Sun that there is no real support or political will to pass a civil unions bill in the legislature. Of course, a real leader uses his influence and political capital to create that will, but we now know that O’Malley is a follower, not a leader or energetic visionary.
Then another Democrat in Annapolis emerged to announce his opposition to not only same-sex marriage, but civil unions too. Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller told the Washington Post that he’s against both options. With Democrats in control of the General Assembly and the governor’s office, you would expect some positive news out of Maryland, but you would be wrong.
Polyak put it succinctly when she told the Blade this week: “He’s a liar.” O’Malley’s record on gay issues is thin at best. Last year, he wouldn’t even come out publicly against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, even though it was a doomed measure. His opponent in the primary, Doug Duncan, properly denounced the amendment, but O’Malley ducked the issue.
His support for Maryland gays seems limited to showing up at Pride, flashing a smile and maybe his biceps, then disappearing again. Next year, Mr. O’Malley, please don’t come to Pride. You’re not welcome. And don’t send your wife to speak at our fundraisers. Instead of genuflecting before hypocrites and liars, gays and lesbians should honor true supporters of our equality. And new supporters emerged just this week, in sharp contrast to the phony O’Malley.
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders delivered a speech in which he flip-flopped on gay marriage — in the other direction. He bravely told constituents that he would direct the city attorney to file a brief in support of gay marriage, even though he previously promised to veto that resolution.
“I have decided to lead with my heart — to do what I think is right — and to take a stand on behalf of equality and social justice,” Sanders said. “The right thing for me to do is to sign this resolution. … The concept of a ‘separate but equal’ institution is not something that I can support.”
Kudos to Sanders for offering us all a beacon of hope after a demoralizing week in Maryland. Closer to home, Maryland Delegate Todd Schuler, a Democrat from Baltimore County, showed up at a rally Tuesday night to pledge his support for a same-sex marriage bill in the next session. He’s straight and married, but drove into Baltimore to stand in solidarity with a tearful, mostly gay, audience.
And Marylanders owe a huge debt of gratitude to the plaintiffs who sacrificed their privacy in the name of equality under the law. It’s one thing to be out, it’s quite another to be out on TV and in the media, especially when raising kids. The families, activists and attorneys that challenged the state’s discriminatory law have inspired the next generation of gay rights leaders who will one day overcome the obstacles erected this week.
As we have seen in Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Canada, Spain, South Africa and elsewhere, the times are changing. The setback in Maryland is a painful reminder that civil rights movements are not won in 30 years. The cruel language of the court’s opinion, which cites procreation as a defense for discrimination and questions whether homosexuality is an immutable characteristic, should inspire supporters of gay rights to redouble their efforts. Equality under the law won’t come easily or quickly, but it will come.
As activist Lea Gilmore put it so powerfully at Tuesday night’s rally, “We shall not be moved.”

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