Maryland and Rhode Island governors are pushing for same-sex marriage legislation in their 2011 agenda despite efforts in a handful of states to protect traditional marriage.
The governors in both states have expressed an interest in putting forth legislation that will allow homosexuals to marry.
Maryland legislators are scheduled to convene on Wednesday for a 90-day session, and Gov. Martin O'Malley has already set forth an agenda of budget cuts and same-sex marriage.
The state has attempted to pass gay marriage legislation in the Maryland General assembly before. Those attempts were blocked by Senate President Thomas V. Miller, Jr.
However, this year Maryland Democrats have a two-vote advantage in the state Senate thanks to state wins in the November 2 election. The political shift as well as a change in the Assembly's legislative committees will now improve gay rights proponents' prospects of passing a same-sex marriage bills. O'Malley, a Catholic, has promised to sign and enact gay marriage legislation as long as it does not mandate religious bodies to perform the ceremonies.
Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr., Montgomery County's openly gay representative, told The Washington Post, "You can see a real path to enacting this legislation."
Similarly, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has demanded the state legislative body to approve same-sex marriage despite calls for a voter referendum on the issue.
During his January 4 inaugural speech, Chafee said legalizing same-sex marriage would be an economic boon for the state. Two days later, a gay marriage bill was introduced in the state legislature.
Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Catholic Diocese of Providence criticized the governor's statements and asked that voters be allowed to decide the issue. Rhode Island's openly gay House Speaker, Gordon Fox, is against a referendum.
National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown believes the renewed push for redefining marriage in both states is a reaction to pro-values gains throughout the country.
"In most states we have positive legislation to protect marriage," stated Brown.
So far, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Iowa, Minnesota and Wyoming are all working to repeal or ban same-sex marriage. Maryland Republican lawmakers are also introducing an inclusive civil union law as an alternative to same-sex marriage.
Brown said gay rights advocates are now desperate. "I think supporters of redefining marriage are looking [at] any place they can gain ground," he shared.
Brown believes attempts in both Rhode Island and Maryland will come up short. In Rhode Island, Brown said, "The people just don't want same-sex marriage." Brown pronounced the same sentiment to be true in heavily Democratic Maryland.
In the event that the Maryland state legislature tries to approve a gay marriage bill, he said NOM will work with advocates on the ground to collect the signatures necessary for a referendum.
"In every state where the people had the chance to vote, in both deep blue and deep red states, they have voted against same-sex marriage," Brown emphasized.