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Archive for February, 2012

from The Oracle.

This week, Maryland could become the eighth state to approve same-sex marriage, a decision that would ultimately benefit all residents of the state.

The Maryland Senate approved the bill Thursday and Gov. Martin O’Malley has agreed to sign it this week. If the bill indeed passes, Maryland will receive the same benefits that New York reports to have seen as a result of same-sex marriages in the state, which include state and local tax money increases, revenue from marriage licenses and a boon for the entire wedding industry.

According to the New York Clerk’s Office, the state’s decision to legalize gay marriages resulted in a substantial amount of income. According to the New York Post, “total revenue to the city’s marriage bureau jumped from $2.07 million from August through December 2010, to $2.26 million in the same period last year, after same-sex nuptials went into effect.”

The seven states that have legalized the marriages so far have seen a positive impact in their economy and serve as a destination for gay couples hoping to tie the knot. State leaders like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who refused to sign a legalizing bill last week after it passed through the House and Senate, should take note of the potential new sources of revenue that such policies could create in a time of economic despair.

According to the Population Reference Bureau, marriages of young adults ages 25 to 34 has dropped 10 percent over the past decade, due in part to the recession. However, marrying gay couples could raise these dropping rates.

The wedding industry as a whole would benefit from legalizing same-sex marriage. Disc jockeys, catering companies, restaurants and venues would all see more business come their way.

According to the Huffington Post, a 2009 University of California, Los Angeles study showed that Massachusetts same-sex marriages brought more than $100 million into the state since 2004, and it projected a boost in the California economy by almost $700 million during the next three years, thanks to resident and out-of-state tourism and wedding ceremonies.

If Maryland becomes the eighth state to legalize gay marriage, it will see these positive gains in its economy as well. While still a controversial issue morally, one cannot argue with the numbers economically. O’Malley seems excited to sign the bill, and rightfully so. Adding revenue in a time of recession can never be a bad thing.

 Read the article from The Oracle.

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from The Baltimore Sun.

A former math teacher. A firefighter. A lawyer. A small-business woman. A full-time doctoral student. A congressional aide.

When the legislative session started in January, the six delegates from different cliques in Maryland’s clubby General Assembly had this in common: None would have called himself or herself a supporter of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

Yet all cast votes Friday in favor of the measure, providing the margin needed to pass the bill, 72-67, in the House of Delegates, which had rejected a similar measure 11 months ago.

Some never let on that they were wavering. Those who did faced the same formidable political and social forces that managed to scuttle the measure last year, including a strong and organized lobby from some of the state’s most influential church leaders. One lawmaker, a Catholic, received a phone call from Rome from Cardinal-designate Edwin F. O’Brien, who was elevated to that rank Saturday. All confronted the threat of being unseated by opponents of gay marriage when the delegates face re-election campaigns in 2014.

But this time the faith-driven opposition didn’t carry the day. Instead, lawmakers say, they were swayed by the emotional stories of gay couples. Some delegates wanted to be assured that churches would never be forced by the state to preform same-sex marriages. Several were convinced that voters would get the final say. Their decisions pushed the vote count past the 71 needed to pass the measure.

Like many legislators, Dels. A. Wade Kach, Robert A. Costa, Tiffany T. Alston, Pamela G. Beidle, John A. Olszewski Jr. and John L. Bohanan Jr. struggled with the decision. They were among the last to declare support for the bill; three flipped their votes last week.

Jubilant supporters are looking to the next step — a vote in the Maryland Senate, which approved a similar measure last year and is likely to do so again. If the bill passes, it is expected to be petitioned to referendum and go before the voters in November. Opinion polls show they are evenly split on the issue.

Read the full article from The Baltimore Sun.

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from The New York Times.

Image by Marcos Chin, NY Times.

Here’s a two-question quiz:

• If Pat and Chris want to form a business partnership in your home state, should their sexes play any role in determining whether that partnership is legal?

• Should the government play any role in deciding the rules regarding religious ceremonies like christenings and bar mitzvahs?

If you answered “no” to both questions, you are on your way to solving the same-sex marriage debate in the United States.

Early this month, a federal appeals court panel declared unconstitutional a California ballot measure making same-sex marriage illegal. Although the decision produced headlines and strong emotional reactions on both sides, the case boiled down to a single question: Are same-sex couples entitled to call themselves “married”?

Nothing else was at stake, because same-sex couples in California are eligible to form domestic partnerships that grant, in the court’s words, “virtually all the benefits and responsibilities afforded by California law to married opposite-sex couples.” Same-sex couples already had the right to live together, have sex, adopt children and so forth. They just could not call themselves married. Clearly that word is important to people on both sides of this issue.

At the federal level, however, the fight is not just about words; it is also about money. Federal law bestows a long list of rights — more than 1,000 — on legally married couples. Spouses may give each other unlimited bequests tax free, and they are permitted to file joint tax returns. If one spouse is a citizen, the other can become a citizen, too, and spouses get special treatment from Social Security. For some couples, a lot of money is on the line. That’s why you are reading this column in the business section.

People in domestic partnerships, as well as gay couples who were legally married in a state, cannot get these federal benefits. That’s because of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which says, “The word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” So, although the headlines are being made by legislation and court decisions at the state level, the financial aspects of same-sex marriage are, for the most part, controlled at the federal level.

The Defense of Marriage Act renders the positions of some politicians logically untenable.

Read the full article from The New York Times.

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from The Washington Post.

Supporters of same-sex marriage picked up a second Republican supporter in the House of Delegates on Thursday, shortly before floor debate of the measure was delayed for several hours.

Del. Wade Kach (R-Baltimore County) said he would switch sides and support a bill sponsored by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to legalize gay nuptials.

In a statement, Kach attributed his decision in part to testimony at a hearing on the bill last week.

“While no one event or conversation prompted me to come to this decision, I was significantly moved by the testimony of families — who are raising children in a loving environment and deserve every right to enjoy the same protections and responsibilities that our laws provide for others,” Kach said.

Kach’s support was first reported by the Baltimore Sun.

A final House vote on O’Malley’s bill could come as early as Friday. The outcome remains too close too call. O’Malley has been actively courting GOP backers in recent weeks.

Delegates were scheduled to start debate on several proposed amendments Thursday morning, but the bill was special-ordered until later this afternoon. Several delegates said they expect to return to the measure after 5 p.m.

Kach joins Del. Robert A. Costa (R-Anne Arundel) as the only GOP supporters of the bill in the House. Sen. Allan Kittleman (R-Howard) is co-sponsoring the bill in his chamber.

Read the article from The Washington Post.

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February 8, 2012. Rep. Maureen Walsh, a Republican, makes the case for marriage equality. Watch video of Rep. Walsh’s remarks on the Washington State House of Representatives floor on ESSB 6239 concerning civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

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from The Washington Post.

 Maryland Gov. Martin O' Malley addresses a joint session in his State of the State address.

In Maryland, a Democratic governor’s efforts to persuade a heavily Democratic legislature to pass a same-sex marriage bill could come down to the votes of a few Republicans.In search of fresh support for legislation that fell short last year, Gov. Martin O’Malley and his allies have reached out in recent weeks to about a quarter of the GOP members of the House of Delegates, the chamber expected to once again decide the fate of the measure.

The overtures — most of them long shots — underscore how closely divided the General ­Assembly remains over same-sex marriage, which was the subject of an emotional, 101 / 2-hour hearing Friday that drew politicians, families and clergy to Annapolis.

O’Malley’s coordinated outreach also comes from a recognition that in the last two states to approve same-sex marriage legislation — New York last summer and Washington last week — the votes of a small number of Republicans were pivotal.

“It could well prove true here as well,” O’Malley said in an interview. “We are still pushing, talking and having conversations with people in both parties who may have open minds.”

A month into this year’s 90-day legislative session, no Republican in the House has publicly committed to backing the bill, despite the overtures from O’Malley, his aides and lawmakers working to pass the bill.

Last year, Sen. Allan H. Kittleman (Howard) was the only one of 12 Republicans in the Senate to vote for a same-sex marriage bill that narrowly passed his chamber. None of the 43 House Republicans voiced support for the bill, which was pulled from the floor before it could come to a vote.

Supporters have sought to appeal to the libertarian leanings of some of their GOP colleagues and have pointed to polling data that show growing acceptance of same-sex marriage among younger voters.

A Washington Post poll last month found that 35 percent of Republicans in Maryland support legalizing same-sex marriage, compared with 57 percent of Democrats.

The level of GOP support statewide has not been reflected in the legislature, in part because of the way the state’s districts are drawn, lawmakers and analysts say. Most Republican members represent solidly conservative areas.

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from The Seattle Times.

R.K. Krishnakumar, left, of Tata Global Beverages, and John Culver, of Starbucks, announce their long-awaited agreement. (PUNIT PARANJPE / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Legalizing same-sex marriage would generate as much as $88 million in additional wedding and tourism spending in Washington, according to a study by UCLA Law School’s Williams Institute.

The institute, which studies issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, based its estimate on census data, economic-impact figures and the experiences of other states that have legalized same-sex marriage, most notably Massachusetts.

The same-sex marriage bill passed Wednesday by the state Senate is expected to win House approval within days and be signed quickly by Gov. Chris Gregoire, though opponents hope to challenge it in a statewide referendum in the fall.

According to the 2010 Census, there are just over 19,000 same-sex couples in Washington. Assuming half of them choose to marry within three years of legalization — the rate in Massachusetts after same-sex marriage became law there in 2004 — that would mean about 9,500 marriages that otherwise wouldn’t take place.

(Washington now has about 40,000 marriages a year, according to federal data.)

Weddings are big business, as anyone who’s paid for one lately knows all too well: The average spent on a wedding in Washington was $25,414 in 2010, according to industry-research website theweddingreport.com.

Even if, as the institute estimates, same-sex couples spend only a quarter as much on their Big Day as heterosexual couples, that’s still more than $6,350 per wedding.

Do the math and it works out to $60.4 million in direct spending over three years.

Read the full article from The Seattle Times.

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