- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — As about 300 people prayed outside the State House yesterday afternoon for a ban on same-sex “marriage,” the real-life subjects of their invocations were inside state office buildings, lobbying lawmakers for bills that would broaden their rights.

“Once again, they are out there attacking who we are fundamentally, and here we are asking again politely for these rights,” Lisa Polyak said as she sat outside a House committee room with other same-sex union partners.

Within earshot of the demonstration, they waited to testify in support of a bill that would give homosexual couples the right to make medical decisions for their partners. It also would allow partners to share ambulance rides, visit each other during hospital stays and share rooms in nursing homes.

Lawmakers say the bill is likely to move forward. It was approved by the full House last year, after it had been amended to give the same rights to opposite-sex, unmarried couples. It didn’t make it to the Senate floor, but its chances are better this year, said the chairwoman of the committee handling the bill.

Demonstrators waved “Keep Maryland Moral” signs at yesterday’s rally, which was organized by Defend Maryland Marriage and was a combination of a prayer vigil and a demonstration. It coincided with similar gatherings at courthouses in Western Maryland yesterday.

Another rally drew about 1,000 people to Annapolis in late January, as they pressed for bills to protect traditional marriage.

In general, bills supported by homosexual rights advocates are moving forward in this year’s General Assembly session, while those that would restrict such rights are all but dead, lawmakers say.

Another bill supported by homosexual rights advocates would count homosexuals as a group protected from hate crimes. Senators and delegates will hear testimony on the bill next week, and advocates say they are optimistic it will gain passage.

“If we know that people are being targeted because of their sexual orientation, why is this law not on the books — as it is with race and religion — to make our streets as safe as possible?” said Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland, the state’s most prominent civil rights and homosexual rights lobbying group.

Plus, Mr. Furmansky says, “It’s a matter of equal protection under the law.”

The bill also was approved by the House but faltered on the Senate floor in the final days of the last year’s session.

Lawmakers say they are waging an uphill battle; a bill for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex “marriage” shows no signs of winning approval in a House committee. The panel was prepared to kill the legislation last week but shelved it instead.

Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., a minister and Baltimore County Democrat, introduced a separate bill that would have outlawed recognition of out-of-state same-sex “marriages” this session.

It was killed by the same House committee last week over the objections of those who warned that Maryland law, although it defines marriage as the union of a man and woman, needs to be more clearly defined to fend off liberal judges who grant same-sex “marriages” in other states.

“As Marylanders, we want our voices heard, not to have a court decide,” said Laura Clark, an at-home mom from Catonsville, Md., who attended the rally with her four children.

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