Maryland Sen. Allan H. Kittleman has spent seven years honing his reputation as a fiscal conservative and Republican leader in the General Assembly, but he made waves this year by standing apart from party colleagues on one of the state’s most controversial social issues — same-sex marriage.
The Howard Republican was the only one of 55 Republican state legislators who spoke out in favor of a gay-marriage bill that passed the Senate but died in the House because of seemingly unanimous Republican opposition and resistance from nearly one-third of Democrats.
With state Democrats poised to launch another battle for gay marriage in next year’s assembly, Mr. Kittleman said he is willing to lend support and that he might not be the only Republican who ends up aiding the cause.
“I know of [Republican] legislators who have told me they agree with me on the issue,” he said, adding that some have kept quiet out of deference to constituents and party leaders. “I’ll do whatever I can to help it. I think this is the year.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, announced last month that he will sponsor a gay-marriage bill in next year’s assembly — a move that is expected to help supporters round up pivotal votes from House Democrats.
While Mr. Kittleman has reservations about the governor’s involvement — he thinks it’s more for political gain than out of genuine interest — he said he will not waver in his support despite continued disapproval from many Republican colleagues and conservative groups.
Party colleagues have expressed disappointment in mostly reverent tones, but Mr. Kittleman has insisted that feedback has been about 60 percent supportive within his mostly Republican district. He says much of the support has come from younger Republicans.
The senator has argued frequently that government-recognized marriage is a civil right and has explained his vote by citing the example of his father, former state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman.
Robert Kittleman — a pro-choice Republican who served in the General Assembly from 1983 to his death in 2004 — was active in Howard County’s civil rights movement and eventually led the county’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“I’ve always felt strongly for equal rights,” Allan Kittleman said. “Supporting the gay-marriage issue wasn’t necessarily opposing God’s view of marriage. It was just saying that in the government’s view, couples who care for one another have the right to do that.”
Sam Hale, founder of the tea-party-affiliated Maryland Society of Patriots, called Mr. Kittleman’s support for gay marriage “politically stupid and a betrayal of leadership.”
“Not only was it bad morally, but in Maryland, Republicans only get a few inches to make gains,” he said. “We had an opportunity to reach out to swing Democrats and black Democrats on a very unpopular issue that Democrats were behind.”
Mr. Hale also said Mr. Kittleman’s position likely will result in a primary challenge.
Other Republican legislators argue that gay marriage defies traditional marriage and will infringe on the rights of religious groups that oppose it — a stance they say is echoed by most constituents.
Delegate Warren E. Miller, Howard Republican who serves two-thirds of Mr. Kittleman’s district, said the residents who contacted him during last session’s debate “overwhelmingly” opposed to gay marriage.