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The Nose

Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

Posted 6/1/2005

Well, gay Marylanders, Gov. Robert Ehrlich feels sympathetic to your needs, really he does—just not enough to protect your rights. The recent legislative session was a banner one for gay-rights advocates. The General Assembly approved bills to give individuals in same-sex relationships the right to visit one another in the hospital and make medical decisions for their partners; it also approved a bill that would allow same-sex couples the right to transfer one another onto the deeds of their homes without tax penalties, which married couples can already do. Further, a bill was introduced that would add assaults on individuals based on their sexual orientation to the list of crimes punishable under Maryland’s Hate Crimes Act.

But don’t put away your powers-of-attorney just yet. Ehrlich has already axed two out of the three bills. On May 20, our Republican governor sent a letter to Senate President Thomas “Mike” Miller, a Democrat, stating, “While I am sympathetic to the needs of mutually dependent couples and want to support compassionate efforts to expedite health-related decisions for Marylanders in need . . . [the Medical Decision Making Act] will open the door to undermine the sanctity of traditional marriage.” Apparently, Ehrlich is so afraid that traditional marriage will be undermined that he used the same argument in a letter to House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a Democrat, to explain his reason for vetoing the Recordation and Transfer Taxes legislation. “While I am a long-time proponent of lowering settlement costs for Maryland citizens,” Ehrlich wrote, “[the bill] undermines the sanctity of traditional marriage.”

On May 26, Ehrlich did sign the Hate Crimes Penalty Act into law. While the guv’s signature has gay-rights advocates breathing a sigh of relief, it’s sure to stick in the craw of Del. Don “George Wallace” Dwyer, R-Anne Arundel County. At a May 25 press conference on the governor’s vetoes of the Medical Decision Making Act and the Recordation and Transfer Taxes bill, Dwyer, a fervent opponent of equal rights for gay Marylanders, gloated over the conservative victories and urged Ehrlich to reject the hate-crimes bill as well.

“All Maryland citizens should be and are protected under law from abuse and attack, but we cannot advocate laws that would punish citizens for simply living and expressing their religious beliefs,” Dwyer said.

Apparently, in Dwyer’s mind, beating the shit out of people is OK as long as God told you to do it.

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