Impeachment bid spurs full-fledged protest

While the impeachment of state Attorney General Doug Gansler by Delegate Don Dwyer of Anne Arundel County is widely expected to be considered out of order by House leadership, this effort has sparked a protest which will occur tomorrow morning in Lawyers Mall.

Billed as a “Constitutional Freedom Rally,” supporters urge that a message be sent to Maryland elected officials that the public will not tolerate lawlessness nor will Constitutional violations be unchallenged. Organizers expect hundreds of people to rally beginning tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.

(continued on my page…)

The Maryland marriage controversy

When Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler opined that Maryland should recognize the same-sex marriages of couples wed in the District of Columbia, he overturned precedent set in 2004 by former AG Joseph Curran and ignored a 1973 state law recognizing marriage solely between one man and one woman. Delegate Don Dwyer quickly denounced Gansler’s ruling and announced a bid to impeach the Attorney General.

While Dwyer is no stranger to impeachment proceedings over same-sex marriage, attempting to remove Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock for her ruling declaring the state law unconstitutional, he’s noncommittal thus far on whether he’ll include Governor O’Malley in his impeachment crusade as O’Malley publicly backed Gansler Wednesday.

(More on my page…)

An impeachable offense?

The argument over same-sex marriage continues, but has drawn a companion sidebar regarding Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler’s interpretation of his job vs. existing laws. Cue House of Delegates member and same-sex marriage foe Don Dwyer:

On March 31, I will be bringing Articles of Impeachment against Maryland’s Attorney General Doug Gansler at approximately 10am on the Floor of the House of Delegates. Please read further as to why I feel that I must take this action.

If you support me, please consider coming to Annapolis in a public show of support for upholding the Constitution.


Maryland recently recognized same sex marriages for the purpose of marital benefits. The recognition of same sex marriages performed in other states was not enacted by the Maryland legislature nor was it mandated by Maryland courts; rather it was the independent decision of Maryland’s Attorney General Douglas Gansler, released on February 24, 2010.

Because this was a blatant attack on Maryland’s current law that states: “Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this state” and because this action is clearly a violation of the separation of powers related to the three branches of government, the Attorney General was put on public notice that impeachment charges were being drafted.

As if the Attorney General was not in enough hot water, on March 1, 2010 HE DECLARED HIMSELF UNIMPEACHABLE in an attempt to thwart any attempt by the legislature to hold him accountable for usurping their authority. Unbelievably, the Attorney General went to a subordinate member of his staff, Mr. Dan Friedman to write the letter addressed to Maryland’s Speaker of the House, stating that the Attorney General could not be removed by impeachment.

Mr. Gansler’s actions have put Maryland in a constitutional crisis. The highest law officer in the state who is an elected member of the executive branch of government has violated his Oath of Office and has revealed his incompetence, and his willful neglect of duty. As a constitutional officer, he must ensure that the provisions of the State and U.S. Constitutions are upheld in all cases, including a constitutional charge against him.

Attorney General Gansler testified in his official capacity two years ago in support of a gay marriage bill. He said that iit (sic) would be hard to not try to correct an injustice in the law. His testimony publicly revealed his partial and prejudiced position on the subject of same sex marriage. Mr. Gansler violated his oath of office in which he swore to perform his duties in an impartial and unprejudiced manner.

After revealing his bias on the issue, he was asked by a member of the Senate to advise on the legality of Maryland recognizing same sex marriage contracted in other states. Despite the fact that the Office of the Attorney General addressed that very same question in 2004, and despite the fact that no court ruling, or legislation has overturned that 2004 opinion, Mr. Gansler released a “new” opinion in which he “interprets” the law as supporting the legality of recognizing out of state same sex marriages.

In short, the Attorney General decided that a standing Maryland law is an “injustice” and subsequently misused the authority of his office to effectively change the law without having gone through the legislative process defined in the Maryland constitution.

If this goes unchallenged, the next Attorney General is likely to follow this precedent and usurp the authority of the legislature based on his personal bias. As result, citizens will no longer have the representation that is provided them under the Constitution.

The stage is now set in Maryland for a Constitutional show down. On March 31st a charge of impeachment will be brought before the Maryland House of Delegates at roughly 10:05 am. The House Speaker has publicly stated that he will rule the charge out of order citing the opinion that the Attorney General cannot be impeached as the authority for the out of order ruling.

Regardless of your personal view on same sex marriage, the recent activities of the Maryland Attorney General should give us reason to pause. Again, the Maryland Attorney General has taken for himself; the powers vested in the legislature and declared himself unimpeachable and unaccountable to the citizens of Maryland?

In case you’re wondering, I am pondering making this into an Examiner story closer to time but want to do a little bit of research and ask questions first. But in the meantime, I believe Dwyer has a case – at the current time Maryland law indeed states that marriage is between one man and one woman (and has said so since the early 1970’s.) If the General Assembly wants to have that fight, that’s one thing (and this may be considered after the safety of re-election next year) but for the moment that prospect is a no-go.

On the other hand, while Dwyer has a case, the actual prospects of getting Gansler out of office reside between slim and none, with slim having just vacated the premises. It would be a much better move to find a strong Republican candidate to oppose Gansler and perhaps make this election a referendum by proxy on the subject at hand. If Gansler isn’t Attorney General he’s free to make all the erroneous judgments of law he wishes, since it will no longer be as a representative of the state of Maryland.

Perhaps correct but symbolic

This comes from Delegate Don Dwyer, who represents Anne Arundel County in the General Assembly. He’s seeking to impeach current Attorney General Doug Gansler for a recent decision of his:

On Wednesday, February 24, 2010, the Attorney General released an official opinion allowing out of state same sex marriages be recognized under Maryland law. This action circumvents and usurps the authority of the Maryland General Assembly.

In 2007, after months of discussion and debate, Maryland’s High Court determined that the issue of same sex marriage was up to the General Assembly to decide.

By his actions today, the Attorney General has clearly violated his oath of office and has usurped the authority of the General Assembly.

Delegate Dwyer said, “Attorney General Gansler has violated the public trust by his actions and he will be held accountable.”

It goes without saying that this won’t go far as Republicans don’t have the necessary votes to bring the impeachment matter through. But it also brings out the differences of opinion regarding marriage and perhaps is a legitimate question about the separation of powers.

At its root, this is a case where the public sentiment may not be reflective of the sentiment of the General Assembly. Only its most liberal members would truly want to be on record supporting the concept, while Democrats from more conservative areas like the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland would be squeamish at best to support their fellows along the I-95 corridor should a bill legalizing same-sex marriage come to the General Assembly floor. This is why we haven’t seen that push, particularly in an election year.

So Gansler, in effect, is taking the bullet for his fellow Democrats since his odds of being re-elected in a statewide ballot are significantly higher than those of individual Democrats in conservative-leaning districts. At the moment, there’s no Republican running against Gansler. He also knows that the impeachment demanded by Dwyer won’t stand a chance in the highly partisan General Assembly so the decision was made knowing that he won’t be held accountable for it.