ANNAPOLIS – Maryland could become a “dumping ground” for gay couples, said Delegate Emmett Burns, D-Baltimore County, if it fails to pass a law invalidating same-sex marriages.
That remark later prompted a response from Cumberland anesthesiologist Bill Davis: “Does referring to Maryland as the dumping ground for gay couples make me trash, Mr. Burns?”
The debate was just a small part of a strained House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday on Burns’ bill to invalidate same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions and Harford Republican Delegate Charles Boutin’s constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and woman.
Davis was reprimanded. Burns paced and fumed that he was denied a response and other lawmakers weighed in on the incivility of it all.
Delegate Luiz Simmons, D-Montgomery, asked Burns if his intent for the law was to promote “gay bashing.”
Burns and supporter Delegate Anthony O’Donnell, R-Calvert, balked at the question and admonished Simmons for questioning Burn’s motives.
Lack of legislation on the same-sex marriage issue, O’Donnell said, puts Maryland at risk of having to follow the public policy of other states like Massachusetts and California.
“In the omission of our actions we are allowing others to make those decisions for us,” O’Donnell said.
If a same-sex couple from another state was traveling through Maryland and one spouse was injured, the other spouse would be restricted from family visitation rights in the Maryland hospital under Burns’ bill, Simmons said, and Burns agreed.
Other committee members sided with Burns, including Delegates Carmen Amedori, R-Carroll, and Don Dwyer Jr., R-Anne Arundel, who repeatedly told witnesses that the bill was protecting the sanctity of marriage and was not denying them any civil rights they were due.
Before the hearing, other opponents called a news conference to influence opinion on the legislation.
“The simple reality is the culture makes the law, the law does not make the culture,” said Delegate Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery, an openly gay lawmaker.
He described the bills as “short-sighted and mean-spirited.”
“I would hazard a guess, even gamble, that the introduction of slot machines would end more marriages in the state of Maryland than same-sex marriages” (would), Madaleno said.
Supporters of Equality Maryland, a gay civil rights group, deny that the sanctity of marriage is at risk by opposing the bills.
“These bills are being sponsored to divide people and to promote hate,” said Delegate John Hurson, D-Montgomery, who is pushing a bill through the House to give same-sex partners medical decision rights.
– 30 – CNS-2-25-04