EYE ON ANNAPOLIS: O’Malley reacts to same-sex marriage court decision

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Gov. Martin O’Malley said Tuesday evening on MSNBC that he hopes a federal appeals court decision repealing a California ban on same-sex marriage “will have a persuasive influence on those delegates who are still open-minded” in Maryland.

O’Malley first reacted to the news earlier in the day when an audience member relayed the decision during a question and answer session on civil marriage equality at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

“Well that’s an important ruling,” he said then.

The governor was promoting the Civil Marriage Protection Act in Baltimore, where he touched on his involvement with the bill and the likely event of a November referendum, should it pass the General Assembly. He said during the question and answer session that his thinking on same-sex marriage has evolved.

“We make judgments as to where we can do – most of us, anyway – make judgments as to where we can do the most good to foster a consensus that moves the issue forward in the short time we have to serve,” he said. “It was my thought that around the notion of civil unions was where I could be most impactful in forming that consensus.”

O’Malley is championing same-sex marriage this year, he said, because of shifts in his “personal understanding” and “public thought” regarding the issue.

“The public I serve moved more quickly than I had thought on this issue. That involves a personal judgment on my part, too,” he said.

Last year, O’Malley said he would sign same-sex marriage legislation if it reached his desk, but he did not take the public lead on the issue as he has this year by speaking in public and testifying before the General Assembly.

The governor said he does not believe same-sex marriage needs to go to a referendum.

“Do I think that it should? I don’t think it needs to,” O’Malley said, appearing in Baltimore with his father-in-law, former Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.

But some delegates have said they would only support a same-sex marriage bill that includes a provision sending the issue straight to voters in November.

“I have consistently stated that I would only support this bill if it is a referendum bill,” said Delegate Aisha Braveboy, D-Prince George’s, and first vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland.

After the event in Baltimore, the governor released a statement on the court ruling, announced in San Francisco, saying it is evidence that “the principles of equal protection under the law and of equal respect for the freedom of all will prevail.”

He later appeared live on MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation” with Rev. Al Sharpton, who recently joined the fight for marriage equality in Maryland by appearing in a web ad campaign.

O’Malley and supporters face a tough road in gaining a “handful” of votes to push the bill through the House of Delegates this year, an area where the governor’s influence is crucial.

O’Malley alluded Tuesday to a number of House cosponsors who had “second thoughts” as they moved toward a vote last year.

He met last week with Delegate Jill Carter, D-Baltimore, to discuss several issues, including same-sex marriage. Carter, a cosponsor last year, was notably absent for a key Judiciary Committee hearing in March before later voting for the legislation in committee.

Carter is not listed as a cosponsor this year and has not said publicly how she will vote.

The Civil Marriage Protection Act seeks to undo a 39-year-old law that defined marriage as being between one man and one woman.

That bill passed with an overwhelming majority in both the House and the Senate in 1973.

“Things do change,” said Curran, who chaired the Senate committee to which that bill was assigned, echoing O’Malley’s sentiments.

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