Leaders of Equality Maryland on their decision to delay the House marriage vote

Chuck Butler, the Chair of the Board for Equality Maryland, and Patrick Wojahn, who chairs the Equality Maryland Foundation Board, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Blade to explain why the decided to delay the marriage vote in the House of Delegates:

We spent the night in discussions among Equality Maryland board and staff, members of the Assembly’s LGBT Caucus, and our national partner organizations, trying to find a way to save the bill. Everyone realized that if the legislature passed the bill, opponents would likely gather sufficient signatures to place a repeal referendum on the next election ballot. The political realities of a referendum meant that, if we didn’t pass the bill in 2011 or 2012, we wouldn’t have another shot until 2015.

So we agreed that if we could not pass the bill this year, we should try again next year. Importantly, House leadership committed to bringing up the bill again in 2012. To preserve our prospects of success, therefore, it was best not to hold a vote now, given the chances of the bill’s defeat by a wide margin. It would be more difficult, within a year, to convert “no” votes to “yes” than to obtain a “yes” from delegates who had not locked in their position with an actual vote.

Those who believe that we had a chance of attaining 71 votes on March 11 are mistaken. Immediately before the House voted to recommit, a whip count revealed that we still lacked 71 votes to pass the bill. Had there been at least 71, the speaker would have held the vote.

We understand the need for clarity and how those who fought so hard for marriage equality deserve an up or down vote on the issue. Equality Maryland’s mission, however, is to achieve equal rights for the state’s LGBT citizens as soon as possible. A vote now would have hurt our chances next year and possibly in 2015 as well.

We thus stand by the decision to recommit the bill. Of course, people can disagree, and we encourage healthy discussion.

Some people do disagree. And, it’s pretty clear that there’s never a shortage of healthy — and sometimes not-so-healthy — discussion about strategies and tactics. There should be. Equality is at stake.

It’s critical for our allies to do a thorough de-brief. And, I’d strongly encourage Equality Maryland to name names. Who really screwed us over — and why?

On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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