In Maryland, fourteen becomes two

And everyone thought the Maryland Senate would be the tougher hurdle for gay marriage.

But yesterday, a Maryland House of Delegates committee vote on the matter was stymied by the absence of two Delegates who had originally expressed their support but now had second thoughts; this according to a story by Julie Bykowicz in the Baltimore Sun. Delegate Jill Carter of Baltimore City was holding out for the restoration of $15 million in school funding cuts to Baltimore City schools and a vote on a pet bill of hers presuming joint custody of children for divorcing couples; meanwhile, Delegate Tiffany Alston wanted time to pray over her vote.

Their absences were key because the 22-person committee appears to be split 12-10 in favor of the bill and losing the two ‘yes’ votes would kill the bill on a 10-10 tie. Instead of holding the vote as promised, Judiciary Committee Chair Joseph Vallario, Jr. opted not to send the gay marriage bill on to defeat, choosing to postpone the vote until all 22 members (or at least 11 supporters) were present.

Obviously Delegate Alston could become key – while Carter will likely be mollified by a promise to look at a funding solution more suitable to her needs, Alston may be having second thoughts based on the perception of her Prince George’s County district toward gay marriage. (As an example of this, it was minority votes that doomed California’s gay marriage bill to failure in 2008 via the Proposition 8 ballot issue.) Opponents of same-sex marriage are already plotting to gather signatures to put the bill to referendum next year should it pass the General Assembly, but that won’t be necessary if Alston or another House Judiciary Committee supporter switches sides, leaving 11 for and 11 against.

Yet, while this is a case where the outcome would benefit the conservative side, there should still be some criticism shown to Delegates Alston and Carter for ducking this vote. If they are having second thoughts about the measure, they should just show up and say no. Believe it or not, gay marriage is NOT the most important issue facing Maryland – even Delegate Carter noted, “there’s no need to act quickly on gay marriage because the 90-day session is only about half over and lawmakers are in their first year of a four-year term.” So what is the rush to pass a bill this year? Don’t they have a budget deficit to address?

It is sort of a bitter irony – and a sad commentary on our society today – that social conservatives and pro-life advocates can’t even get the time of day in the General Assembly, but if a small minority in the population wants to be able to call themselves “married” our representatives in Annapolis are supposed to drop everything and hurry to pass what they desire, especially when civil unions achieve many of the same goals.

In the end, though, I think the two Delegates will fold. Carter will be promised what she wants and Alston, who is a freshman legislator, will find out that what the Democratic Party wants in Annapolis, the Democratic Party gets – principles otherwise be damned.

But I’m hoping Alston proves me wrong and changes her mind in order to thwart the militant gay lobby. It may not be the most logical thinking I exhibit because I can’t cite a foolproof explanation for it other than tradition, but I believe marriage is only meant to be between a man and a woman. Maryland doesn’t need to be yet another laboratory for social experimentation, and the law should stay as is on the subject regardless of what Doug Gansler chooses to think.