Marriage in Maryland is just a bit closer this morning! Last night the Maryland House of Delegates voted YES on the marriage bill. Now it goes to the Senate and then to the Governor. We anticipate that it will then go to referendum; although most of us feel this is inappropriate, but we will probably have to battle through and work hard to win at the ballot.
It has been a crazy time in Annapolis. Last night, after over 200 amendments had been offered and the Delegates had adjourned to review them and then announced they would begin again at 12:30 pm; we were playing the waiting game. Watching our Tweetdecks, Facebook postings, and the live feed from the House floor so we can keep track. Thank goodness for those who have been doing this for a long time and know all the players; because sitting in the gallery, you can't see who is speaking and have to figure it out by voice and where the speaker is from. Most of the proponents were in the gallery...some opponents were there; but many were outside staging a protest in front of the State House. The debate went on. And finally - the Speaker said "third reading" which meant they would vote. The voting board lit up. And then they announced it 71 to 67 for the bill! Since then one more yes vote has been recorded; it didn't light up, so we didn't see it. And then the cheers went up in the gallery and we all headed to the lobby so we could greet the Delegates. And hug. And kiss. And high five. What a night.
We went into this session with high hopes and a good game plan. A special coalition, Marylanders for Marriage Equality, was formed bringing together the separate organizations that had worked on marriage last year, giving us a more consistent message and one strong voice. And through that work we've seen some really amazing moments...
...The legislator who was finally convinced that a yes on marriage equality was the right thing to do when a mother shared that because she was not legally married to her partner their child could not be accepted to a local charter school.
...The Governor who for the very first time invited LGBT and allied clergy to breakfast in his home in Annapolis.
...Speaking to a Southern Baptist pastor who said to me as a fellow Baptist that he might not agree with my theology but he believed that the LGBT community's civil rights should be protected.
...Standing in the security line at the state house with opponents of the bill. Clergy and laity who engaged me in a discussion of whether I was reading scripture with the help of the Holy Spirit. Watching their amazement when my clergy pals and I remained calm and cordial and invited them to walk with us down the halls (they didn't take us up on that unfortunately).
...The prayer breakfast prior to the House Committee hearings where I opened with prayer and another Baptist closed in prayer. At that point, the Governor knew the Baptists were in the house!
...The marathon House of Delegates hearing which went on till after midnight where coalition partners from HRC, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Equality Maryland, and Maryland Faith for Equality not only stayed for the duration but continually worked the House.
...The mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, partners, kids, grandkids, pastors, priests, and friends who have shown up, called, written and emailed.
...The HRC staffers who hearing that we had a chance to get me into a delegate's office to talk about the bill, mobilized and jumped into my car and roared off to find a parking space somewhere in Annapolis (and yes, the car survived - and yes, the legislator delivered a yes vote!).
...The legislators who shared in their remarks last night that it was real people, families, children, and issues of fairness, rights, and equality that moved them to vote yes.
...And finally, the Governor coming into the lobby and he and the Speaker hugging and crying.
All of these moments come together as a movement. There is a popular video on you tube called "leadership lessons from dancing guy." www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW8amMCVAJQ It shows a young man dancing at an outdoor concert and talks about how a movement is made -- by that one lone person who takes a risk; and then is joined by another, and another, and another, until there is a crowd and momentum.
No matter what happens next, we have momentum and we have an ever-growing crowd of people who know that equal marriage is the right thing to do. I hope to see you at a Maryland wedding in 2013!