With attention turning to the House, supporters there acknowledged Thursday that same-sex marriage has been a hard sell with African American lawmakers from Prince George's County, as well as conservative Democrats from Southern Maryland and the Baltimore suburbs.
"There’s an effort to derail this bill like none I’ve seen before," said gay State Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), the author and one of the lead sponsors of the marriage equality bill in the Senate. In a telephone news briefing on Friday, Madaleno said the mainstream media have repeatedly reported an earlier assumption that support for the bill was greater in the House than in the Senate, and approval of the measure in the Senate guaranteed its passage in the House.
A warning signal that support in the House could diminish surfaced earlier in the week when Del. Melvin Stukes (D-Baltimore City), a co-sponsor of the marriage bill for the past four years, withdrew his sponsorship. Stukes told the Baltimore Sun he thought the bill would have given same-sex couples the right to obtain civil unions rather than marriage. Once he realized the measure would allow gays to marry he determined he made a mistake, he told the Sun. "I’m very sorry that I got on the bill," he said.
Activists said privately that they were baffled over Stukes’ change of heart on the bill because he represents a progressive-leaning district in Baltimore where the majority of residents would not object to his support for allowing gays to marry.
Stukes' about-face is troubling, notes Joe Sudbay at AMERICABlog. "Stukes represents the gayest areas of Baltimore. He's been a sponsor of the marriage bill for FOUR years. Now, he's pretending that he didn't know it was about marriage?"