This week, New York lawmakers passed a bill to legalize gay marriage. In the process, advocates overcame institutional opposition in both parties; a feat of charm and arm-twisting that has eluded activists in states like Maryland with similar proposed legislation. We explore the political dynamics that led to New York’s new law, and the prospects for a similar law Maryland next year.

Guests

  • Andrew A. Green Opinion Editor, The Baltimore Sun
  • Richard Madaleno Maryland State Senator, (D- Dist. 18, Montgomery County)

Transcript

  • 13:43:55

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe number of Americans eligible for same-sex marriage licenses essentially doubled this weekend. After months of intense lobbying, New York passed a law on Friday legalizing the performance of same-sex marriages. The New York Senate is now the first Republican-controlled chamber in the country to move forward on the issue. It's a result that many supporters of same-sex marriage had hoped to see in Maryland several months ago where Democrats have a solid grip on the state capital.

  • 13:44:22

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIBut a bill ultimately and unexpectedly died in the Maryland House late in the 2011 session. Joining us to explore how the politics that paved the way for New York's bill compare to those in Maryland, and what the dynamics will be like when the Maryland General Assembly revisits the issue next year, is Rich Madaleno. He is a member of the Maryland Senate. He's a Democrat from Montgomery County. Senator Madaleno, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:44:48

    SEN. RICHARD MADALENOIt's a pleasure to be with you, Kojo.

  • 13:44:50

    NNAMDIAlso joining us from the studios at the Baltimore Sun in Andy Green, opinion editor at the Baltimore Sun. Andy, thank you for joining us.

  • 13:44:57

    MR. ANDREW GREENThanks, Kojo. Hi, Rich.

  • 13:44:59

    MADALENOHey, Andy.

  • 13:44:59

    NNAMDIRich Madaleno, New York is the largest jurisdiction thus far to pass a same-sex marriage law. They've essentially doubled the number of Americans eligible for same-sex marriage licenses. You are one of the main supporters of same-sex marriage in Maryland. What does New York mean for the momentum nationwide of bills like the one you're trying to pass in Annapolis?

  • 13:45:22

    MADALENOWell, I think you -- you just summed it up very nicely by reminding the listeners that with New York's action, within 30 days, more -- the number of residents of states that have -- that provide same gender couples the freedom to marry, has more than doubled. So -- and New York, let's face it, New York, New York City are, you know, our nation's cultural capital, our beacon to so many other things around the country.

  • 13:45:49

    MADALENOAnd I gotta remind people too that how does it affect Maryland in particular, is Maryland is one of the few states that has said we will recognize a valid marriage from another state. So it's provided same-gender couples in Maryland the opportunity to have yet another venue, and one that is, you know, tantalizing close. Not as close as the District of Columbia, but still offers a lot of wonderful opportunities to go spend money in New York to get married as opposed to doing it in Maryland.

  • 13:46:20

    NNAMDIMore about that later when we hopefully get to the issue of divorce. But the common wisdom this year, was that your chamber, the Maryland Senate, was going to be the harder one to get a bill through, but it was in the House that the bill ultimately died. How would you describe what happened to same-sex marriage in Annapolis this year?

  • 13:46:38

    MADALENOWell, I would point out to people that in November of 2010, of the 47 people who were elected to the Maryland Senate, 46 had held prior elected office, whether as a senator, a delegate, a county council member. Only one person was brand new to elected office, and why I think that is important is because it -- having been in office, it gives you perspective when you hit a controversial issue.

  • 13:47:06

    MADALENOBecause believe me, when you hit a controversial issue, you start getting e-mails, letters, phone calls, from people saying, you know, I'm never going to vote for you again if you vote for this, and...

  • 13:47:14

    NNAMDII hate you.

  • 13:47:15

    MADALENO...you know, threatening you. And if you've been in office before, you realize, you know what, just about every year you wind up with one of those situations where -- where you get a lot of angry constituents. You vote your principle, and you explain it to your constituents and you move on. And in the House of Delegates, you had a lot of people enter the House in January, the second week of January, who had never held elected office before, who has followed, you know, in often case a lifelong ambition, and this was, as Andy can tell you, this was the first major controversial issue that came up during the legislative session.

  • 13:47:50

    MADALENOAnd you layer on top of that the message that came from the House leadership that this was a conscious vote, that this was not a party vote, that this was vote however you want, and so you're getting a message from the leadership saying, oh, vote however you feel, and you're getting messages from, you know, people in your -- people you represent saying, you know, I'll never vote for you again. You get nervous.

  • 13:48:15

    MADALENOAnd I think that scared some people away in the House that you didn't have that same dynamic play out in the Senate.

  • 13:48:22

    NNAMDI800-433-8850 is our number. Why do you feel that lawmakers in New York were able to pass a gay marriage bill this year, while lawmakers in Maryland came up short? 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet @kojoshow. Andy, how would you compare the political dynamics that paved the way for the gay marriage bill in New York to those that were at work when Maryland when working on the issues several months ago?

  • 13:48:47

    GREENWell, I think that's a good segue from what Senator Madaleno said. He's absolutely right that I think there were people in the house who got cold feet, and the big difference between -- or at least one of the big differences between New York and Maryland was there this was the governor's bill. He was pushing it very hard, and if you read, you know, the New York Times had a good behind-the-scenes about how things went down...

  • 13:49:08

    NNAMDISure did.

  • 13:49:08

    GREEN...in Albany over the weekend. And you had Governor Cuomo calling people in and saying, look, if you take this vote for gay marriage, I'm going to have your back in the next election. Governor Cuomo is tremendously popular, and he said, look, I'm going to be able to help you in your next election far more than this vote is going to hurt you. And we did not have anything like that from Governor O'Malley this time.

  • 13:49:29

    GREENYou know, he was coming off of a big landslide victory, but, you know, whatever he was doing on this bill was very much behind the scenes, and he was not publically out for it in the same way. And when you have people wavering like I think we really did in the House, you need somebody saying, I'm going to be there with my arm around you, helping you and making sure that you don't suffer any consequences from this.

  • 13:49:52

    NNAMDINot to mention the Wall Street Bankers who were saying I will be there.

  • 13:49:54

    GREENYes. That -- that helped too. And -- And I did just get an e-mail from Equality Maryland with a New York-just-passed-gay-marriage-themed fundraising drive. So apparently they have already thought of that, too.

  • 13:50:05

    NNAMDIThis question...

  • 13:50:05

    MADALENOYeah. But -- can I jump in?

  • 13:50:07

    NNAMDISure, Rich.

  • 13:50:08

    MADALENOThe New York Times article talked about how the bill passed in New York, and you brought up, Kojo, the Wall Street Bankers who are willing to put money up. Well, a lot of them were big-time Republican fundraisers. The irony in that article, is who do they quote? Ken Mehlman, the former head of the RNC.

  • 13:50:24

    GREENYeah.

  • 13:50:26

    MADALENOOne of the biggest names of the Republican party nationally, where is he from? He is from...

  • 13:50:30

    GREENPikesville.

  • 13:50:31

    MADALENO...Baltimore. So I'm hoping that people like Ken Mehlman, who have said, you know, this is their cause, this is part of them making up to the gay community for all of the things that they did over the last 20 years to hurt us in the Republican party, that someone like Ken Mehlman is gonna be engaged in Maryland, and is going to be going to Republicans and saying, you know, what -- you gotta look at this differently as they did in New York.

  • 13:50:54

    MADALENOBecause what's the difference? In New York, Cuomo, the governor, as Andy said, made it -- this was something about him. This was defending our Democratic governor and appeal to Democrats that way. And the Republican leadership, interestingly, said this is a conscious call. You vote how you want. When you almost had the reverse in Maryland, you had the Democratic leadership saying, oh, this is a conscious call, do what you want, and the Republicans, especially in the House, made it a party line vote that if you didn't vote no, you were in trouble.

  • 13:51:24

    NNAMDIAndy...

  • 13:51:24

    GREENAnd in the House...

  • 13:51:25

    NNAMDIGo ahead.

  • 13:51:25

    GREEN...there were a couple of Republicans who were at least, you know, potentially yes votes and they, you know, as Rich said, the Republicans had basically a party call and so they got pulled back into line essentially. But, you know, there was one Republican, Allan Kittleman, who voted for the bill in the Senate. You know, I haven't talked to him all that recently, but I believe he still lives and breathes and walks this earth.

  • 13:51:47

    GREENNo one has struck him down for having done so. So, you know, perhaps, with a little more support from the right places, this wouldn't be such a partisan issue.

  • 13:51:56

    NNAMDIWell, Andy, what do you make of the position that this issues put Democrats in? It seems that part of the strategy of same-sex marriage opponents is to focus on Democrats with constituents that may not be so warm on this issue, particularly those districts with heavily black and Hispanic populations.

  • 13:52:14

    GREENWell, that's one different politically between Maryland and New York is that, you know, there are districts here with heavy, you know, heavily influenced by politically influential, you know, mega churches, particularly in the African-American community, and they did mobilize last time around to try to kill the bill.

  • 13:52:32

    GREENYou know, that's something that will have to be worked on. But, you know, bear in mind, in spite of that fact, this was within one or two votes of passing in the House of Delegates. It's not really a heavy lift to get from where we are now to where we need to be. And furthermore, although the advocates were disappointed, I know that the House didn't take a vote. It does put things in a pretty good position.

  • 13:52:50

    GREENYou know, we've got the Senate on record as supporting this bill. It's gonna be much easier to get through the Senate the next time around, and in the House, you don't have anybody who has taken a position on the record on this bill. There's nobody whose vote you have to change, nobody is going to have to publically flip flop. We know now who the few swing votes are, and, you know, the proponents can concentrate on them.

  • 13:53:14

    NNAMDIUm, go ahead, Rich.

  • 13:53:15

    MADALENOAnd I think if you had Governor O'Malley step forward and display the same sort of leadership that...

  • 13:53:20

    NNAMDII was about to ask you about that.

  • 13:53:21

    MADALENO...Governor Cuomo did, that that -- I think that would potentially change the dynamic in Maryland. I mean, Governor O'Malley -- I'll be very clear. Governor O'Malley has been great to the gay community. His record as mayor and as governor has been stellar, and would match up great against any executive in this country. But on this final issue, he has yet to embrace it as the lieutenant governor of Maryland, Anthony Brown has.

  • 13:53:49

    MADALENOAs the Attorney General, Doug Gansler, as the comptroller, Peter Franchot. All of the statewide elected officials, and potentially all of -- all of his potential successors are all -- have all embraced this issue and embraced it this year, and that's why if the governor could get on and use the muscle, do exactly what Andy explained that Cuomo did, I think it would change the outcome in Annapolis.

  • 13:54:11

    NNAMDIWhat conversations, Rich Madaleno, have you had with Governor O'Malley since the bill failed this spring, and what would you like to see him do differently when the bill comes back up in 2012 I guess, using Governor Cuomo as a kind of prototype.

  • 13:54:25

    MADALENOKojo, I can honestly say you've just about heard the exact thing I have said to the governor every time I've seen him since the middle of February.

  • 13:54:33

    NNAMDIReally?

  • 13:54:34

    MADALENOYes. I have reminded him over and over and over of, you know, why this is so important, and why a governor -- why his leadership could change the dynamic. Because, I mean, we came very close. This was our first major push to get this done. We passed it through the Senate, which most people, as you said and as Andy said, thought was impossible, and we came a few -- we were tantalizingly close in the House.

  • 13:54:57

    MADALENOThe governor can get us over the finish line, and get us over the finish line I think in a safe -- in a safe margin if he -- if, you know, he would be willing to step up, which I think he has every reason for the future. I mean, the Times and the Post have both made this point, and maybe the Sun has as well, sorry Andy, that...

  • 13:55:12

    GREENOh, that's okay.

  • 13:55:13

    MADALENO...that when looking ahead in presidential politics moving forward in 2016, this is a feather in Cuomo's cap and, you know, clearly he's one of the rumored few, along with Governor O'Malley, to be, you know, a candidate in 2016. The governor has to think about our governor -- Governor O'Malley has to think about that and how that positions him to be competitive in a national Democratic primary in 2016.

  • 13:55:39

    NNAMDIAndy, Maryland's attorney general weighed in recently about whether the state should recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, but this was an opinion that didn't care the force of law. Your newspaper ran an editorial today about how a number of divorce cases working their way through the Maryland courts could answer some of the thorny legal issues at play here. How so?

  • 13:55:57

    GREENRight. It is a little unfortunate. You would have liked Attorney General Gansler's opinion to have been challenged in a happier sort of way, but it looks like what eventually will potentially get the Court of Appeals in Maryland to take a stand on whether they effectively agree with Attorney General Gansler's reading of the law the Maryland should recognize gay marriages performed in other states is the question of gay divorce.

  • 13:56:19

    GREENThere have been some cases in some jurisdictions where the courts have recognized -- or have, you know, granted divorces to gay couples married in other states. There have been a couple instances where that hasn't happened. Just last week there was also not -- another not great circumstance, but in Washington County a judge recognized a woman's right to invoke spousal privilege in not testifying against her wife. Again, not a great circumstance, but it does set an important precedent.

  • 13:56:49

    GREENYou know, you would have hoped that perhaps this would all come up with somebody getting some great benefit for being married, but unfortunately it looks like the real test may be the one right that married people have that none of them want to exercise.

  • 13:57:02

    NNAMDIRich Madaleno, the notion of the state kind of backing into this by dealing with the issue of gay divorce, and if it does approve it, than implicitly it's approved gay marriage.

  • 13:57:13

    MADALENOWell, it could. And as one of my colleagues once remarked, really when you think about marriage in regards to the law, the marriage law really is all about when the relationship is not functioning anymore because one or both members are unable or unwilling to participate in it any longer. Someone dies, someone is incapacitated, some decides they want a divorce.

  • 13:57:36

    MADALENOAnd that's where the law comes into play, because your regular married life, think about any listener, think about the two of you, how does the law impact your marriage today? Well, it doesn't unless you run into one of these situations where, you know, someone has died, someone wants a divorce, or as Andy was just talking about, the person in Washington County, not being compelled to testify against their spouse.

  • 13:58:02

    MADALENOSo, I mean, it is those sorts of incidences that a marriage becomes an important legal document and not one of an emotional commitment between the two people.

  • 13:58:13

    NNAMDIAfraid that's all the time we have. Rich Madaleno is a member of the Maryland Senate. He's a Democrat from Montgomery County. Andy Green is opinion editor of the Baltimore Sun. Thank you both for joining us and thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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