Thursday, January 28, 2010

Testimony Against HB 90

Below is the text of my testimony before the Maryland House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 28, 2010. The proposed bill would prevent Maryland from recognizing the valid same-sex marriages performed in other states or foreign countries.

Testimony: HB 90

January 27, 2010

Thank you Chairman Vallario and Vice Chair Rosenberg and your colleagues for the opportunity to speak to you this afternoon.

In 4 short days, my partner and I will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of our relationship. With a divorce rate hovering around 50%, think of the small percentage of heterosexual couples making it that far. Even though there had been no marriage document to bind us, we remained together this long because of our undying love for one another, our endless devotion and deep commitment to our relationship. In every manner except what the State law says, we are a couple.

And there are thousands of gay and lesbian couples and families throughout Maryland who share this commitment and the quest to be legally recognized. I cannot understand how providing us the rights, protections, benefits and responsibilities that an otherwise married couple receive is against the public policy of the State and its interests. Indeed, that is the purported rationale for this heinous and discriminatory bill, HB 90.

Bob and I are good, law abiding citizens. We've worked hard for many years; pay our taxes—hundreds of thousands of dollars in State taxes, in fact, during the course of our relationship. We have volunteered for years in our community and elsewhere and at our local hospital. Our heterosexual neighbors, co-workers and friends love us like family. I was proud to serve our country in the military and performed service in the civilian sector for over 30 years.

Nonetheless, in the eyes of the State, we are considered second-class citizens who are not worthy of marriage recognition here. We are not murderers, rapists, thieves, child molesters, arsonists or drug dealers. Yet that group of people has one common denominator: they have the right to marry and be recognized in Maryland as such. We can't. Is that in the best the interest of the State?

This past summer Bob and I traveled to Massachusetts to get married. We did not "sashay up to the altar" as Del. Burns would have you believe. We had a brief, dignified secular ceremony officiated by a Justice of the Peace in Provincetown—our first and favorite vacation place.

Having our union recognized in Massachusetts did not result in the catastrophic destruction of the institution as the opponents of marriage equality predict. In fact, thousands of same-sex marriage ceremonies have been performed in the state since it became legal in 2004, and guess what? Massachusetts maintains its standing as the state with the lowest divorce rate in the country. To my knowledge, not one heterosexual couple ended their marriage because of a marriage between gay men or lesbians.

While we enjoyed the sentimental and emotional connection of being married in Provincetown, we truly want to have our marriage recognized in our home state—the state we love. In every respect, we are no different from legally sanctioned married couples except that we are financially disadvantaged from the lack of government recognition.

And we want to honor our relationship in the greatest way our society has to offer, by making a public commitment to stand together in good times and bad, through all the joys and challenges family life brings.

Thank you again for this opportunity.

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