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Pressure builds on Sen. Mikulski to co-sponsor DOMA repeal

DOMA Repeal

By Adam Bink

As Chris Johnson writes in the Washington Blade:

The senior U.S. senator from Maryland is facing increasing pressure to sign on as a co-sponsor of legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act amid plans to win marriage equality in her state in 2012.

A coalition of LGBT rights advocates — made up of Courage Campaign, Freedom to Marry and Equality Maryland — are building pressure on Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act by circulating a petition among Maryland residents asking her to support the bill.

As of Tuesday, organizers had collected more than 3,000 names for the petition encouraging Mikulski to voice support for the Respect for Marriage Act. LGBT rights advocates were set to deliver the petition to Mikulski’s Baltimore, Md., office on Friday.

LGBT rights advocates said Mikulski’s lack of co-sponsorship of the bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), is particularly striking because other elected officials in her states have voiced support for same-sex marriage and because plans are in motion to legalize same-sex marriage in the state next year.

Rick Jacobs, chair of the Courage Campaign, said Mikulski’s support would be significant because she’s a leader of the Democratic Party and because it would align her with the movement toward marriage equality in Maryland.

“I think with Sen. [Benjamin] Cardin on board, and the governor on board and her state moving, I think it’s really important that she joins in,” Jacobs said. “I’m going to assume that her staff and she simply need education. I’m going to assume that. If several thousand of her constituents can help her provide that education, then that’s great. But beyond that it’s really time for Sen. Mikulski to join us.”

Last month, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced he would push for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maryland as part of his legislative package in 2012. The Maryland governor had been criticized for not taking a leadership role in the effort to legalize gay nuptials in his state this year.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said O’Malley’s support indicates that Maryland is in the midst of a debate on same-sex marriage and said Mikulski’s co-sponsorship of the Respect for Marriage Act would show where she stands in the discussion.

“It’s important that Sen. Mikulski be on the right side of this deeply important matter of justice for families and the right side of history as well,” Wolfson said.

Additionally, Wolfson said Mikulski’s co-sponsorship would put her in a position to back same-sex couples in her state who are married or are seeking the right to marry. While Maryland doesn’t offer same-sex marriage under state law, it recognizes such unions that are performed in other jurisdictions.

“As we’ve seen from the release on Census data and the snapshots provided by the Williams Institute and others, there are families in Maryland across the state who are harmed by the denial of marriage, and by federal discrimination against the marriages that they manage to celebrate right across the border in the District of Columbia as well as other states,” Wolfson said.

According to recent numbers published by the Williams Institute at the University of California in Los Angeles based on data from the 2010 U.S. Census, 16,987 same-sex couples live in Maryland and make up 7.88 couples in every 1,000 households.

Rachel MacKnight, a Mikulski spokesperson, said the senator is “very closely” looking at Feinstein’s legislation.

As long as the Senate is out of session for August recess, Mikulski is unable to sign on as a co-sponsor to the legislation. An informed source said the senator would make an announcement regarding her support for the Respect for Marriage Act in September.

Other members of the congressional delegation from Maryland have already signed on in support of the legislation. Cardin, the junior senator from Maryland, joined on as a co-sponsor in May. The legislation has a total of 28 co-sponsors in the Senate — all Democrats.

In the House, where Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) sponsors companion legislation, Reps. John Sarbanes, Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen as well as House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer have become co-sponsors. The House legislation has 120 co-sponsors in total.

Lisa Polyak, acting board chair for Equality Maryland, said support from Mikulski would “round out the complement” of statewide elected officials in Maryland who’ve voiced support for same-sex marriage.

“She’s the only one at this time who doesn’t, both at the state and federal level,” Polyak said. “I think there’s really no reason for her not to support it. Public opinion polls are there. She’s shown herself to be a progressive senator on other issues, and I think this fits easily within the types of issues that she’s supported in the past for women and family and children.”

We at Courage, along with Equality Maryland and Freedom to Marry, plan to deliver the signatures of more than 3,000 Marylanders to the Senator’s office later this week, and request a meeting with her staff and same-sex couples impacted by DOMA across the state. It’s time for Sen. Mikulski to do something to protect her constituents who are being denied their federal rights.

If you haven’t signed yet, there’s still time before we deliver. Sign here. You can also leave a personal note for Sen. Mikulski (some examples are here). And make sure to share with your friends in the state.


  • 1. Ann S.  |  August 24, 2011 at 9:11 am


  • 2. Alan_Eckert  |  August 24, 2011 at 9:57 am

    Can't do my funky letters on this computer =(

  • 3. sean  |  August 24, 2011 at 9:18 am

    What is the difference between co-sponsoring and simply voting/supporting the bill?

  • 4. jpmassar  |  August 24, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Co-sponsoring shows support before the bill is actually voted on. A bill may never come to a vote, for that matter.

    Also, in theory, the more co-sponsors the more seriously the leadership might take the bill.

  • 5. Nyx  |  August 24, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Since we are on the general topic, don’t forget that many politicians are opportunistic creatures who flip-flop on issues frequently. Once they sign on as co-sponsors it’s harder for them to slink away. (Ok, that might be a little snarky… but you get my point.)

  • 6. Reformed  |  August 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Also, considering that the right makes this a wedge issue (as they put it, no less then defining issue of post industrial America while not being a focus or priority) politicians no doubt weigh the momentum of issues they support and make decisions on whether their increased involvement is necessary. I can understand taking a stance or not taking a stance such as co sponsorship only to create ammunition for the opposition. That being said, I wish she would pile on, and other too.

  • 7. Ronnie  |  August 24, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Subscribing & sharing……..

    Kevin Alejandro, (True Blood) says "It Gets Better"………… <3…Ronnie:
    [youtube JPalGTfiDrI& youtube]

  • 8. Alan_Eckert  |  August 24, 2011 at 10:32 am

    I really enjoy this blog called Obesity Panacea. Today, they posted a story about one of the possible downsides to marrying (anyone): “Entry into romantic partnership is associated with obesity.”

    Is this a reason to deny anyone from marrying? NO! It just raises a point of concern that should be let known to those who are or are getting married. It should focus on education about getting the best out of marriage instead of systematically denying people that right.

    Although marital status is often tied to improved health, greater longevity and lower prevalence of unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking, being in a romantic partnership is also apparently a recipe for weight gain.

    First, it is important to note that BMI status has long been shown to be highly correlated between spouses. It is hypothesized this correlation is due to the following:

    1) Assortative mating – likelihood of individuals to select romantic partners who are similar to them in behaviour as well as appearance. This explains why Brad Pitt is with Angelina Jolie, why Danny DeVito is with Rhea Perlman, and also why Travis is with Daun.

    2) Shared household environment – live in the same place and thus the same environmental cues which cause one partner to be inactive and eat unhealthy influence the other.

    However, this recent study specifically looks at the likelihood of gaining weight or becoming obese when people enter into relationships and co-habitate.

    This isn't directly related to same-sex couples marrying, but it is an example of the type of study that anti-gay groups would use if they wanted to discredit gay Americans. If this study focused only on married or committed gay couples, you would be damn sure that the results would look similar to this study, but it would be misconstrued by those groups to say something bad about gays.

    So what’s the solution to the apparently inevitable weight gain? Stay single!

  • 9. Reformed  |  August 24, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    New NOM headline: Same sex marriage will exacerbate America's problem with obesity! Can we really afford to open marriage to all desiring citizens when obesity is already at and epidemic level?

  • 10. Book in Tracy  |  August 24, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    So now we are the reason Maggie has a weight problem???

  • 11. Zander1986  |  August 24, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    I can just see the ads inspired from this… Maggie laying back in a two piece bikini… a derogatory message about how the gays are the cause of all evils, including the evils of Maggie's big ol ass.

  • 12. AnonyGrl  |  August 24, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I am single, have been my entire life, and am overweight.

    Puts a hole right through that theory. LOL

  • 13. Seth from Maryland  |  August 24, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    i thought she would be one of the first-cosponcors , i hope shes comes out in support soon , but if she does not , then i will not support her next time around

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