- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 9, 2004

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — The Democrat-controlled House of Delegates was forced unexpectedly to take up the issue of homosexual “marriage” yesterday when a Republican lawmaker tried to tack an amendment onto an unrelated marriage bill.

The House voted 82-52 to kill the amendment brought by Delegate Gail H. Bates, Howard Republican, who said the language she wanted to add to state law was a “housekeeping matter” to clarify that Maryland will not recognize same-sex “marriages” performed in other states.

“It doesn’t hurt to reinforce our position,” she said.

Maryland law defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but conservative legislators this year have tried to make the law specifically state that same-sex “marriages” performed in other states won’t be recognized.

“Right now, a person cannot come in through the front door, but they can certainly come in through the back door,” said Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., Baltimore County Democrat, referring to homosexual couples who “marry” in other states or countries. His bill to invalidate such out-of-state “marriages” was rejected in a powerful House committee Friday.

Delegate Joseph F. Vallario Jr., Prince George’s Democrat and chairman of the committee that killed Mr. Burns’ bill, said the amendment was an effort to force an issue that has been decided — by his fellow committee members as well as by existing state law.

“No means no,” Mr. Vallario told delegates. “It means no marriage other than between a man and a woman is valid in this state.”

Opponents of Mr. Burns’ bill have said it encourages “gay bashing” and is unnecessary.

The amendment would have been attached to a bill that clarified which judges are authorized to perform marriage ceremonies and the fees they may charge.

The attempt was criticized as an underhanded way to press a bill that had died in committee. Some delegates, including Mr. Burns, voted against the amendment for that reason — even though House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Southern Maryland Republican, urged lawmakers to vote on the substance of the issue.

A majority of Senate members, chafing over having the weakest budget powers of any state legislature in the country, gave preliminary approval yesterday to a constitutional amendment granting them more control over the way the state spends its money.

The bill, which would dilute the budget powers of the governor, received preliminary approval on a 30-16 vote, one more than the 29 votes needed to pass an amendment to the constitution and put it on the November ballot for approval or rejection by voters.

Maryland is the only state in which the legislature cannot increase items in the governor’s budget or move money from one program to another.

The proposed amendment would allow the House and Senate to do both, but would prohibit them from increasing the level of spending proposed by the governor. It also would give the governor veto power over any changes made in his budget.

A companion bill has been introduced in the House of Delegates with 88 sponsors, three more than the 85 required to approve amendments to the constitution.

Sen. Patrick J. Hogan, Montgomery Democrat and the chief Senate sponsor, said the safeguards would protect the state against runaway spending.

“If the governor submits a $23 billion budget, we can’t pass a budget that’s a penny over $23 billion,” he said.

But opponents said the change inevitably would lead to more spending.

“The more people who have their fingers in the mix, the more potential there is to grow government,” said Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, Somerset Republican.

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