- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. yesterday said he will not block an effort to rename Baltimore-Washington International Airport after the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, the U.S. Supreme Court’s first black jurist.

“The sponsor of that bill just needs to work the bill and do whatever it takes to get a bill passed,” said Mr. Miller, Prince George’s County Democrat. “I am not involved, I am not holding it up, I am not saying anybody vote against it or anything like that. If it passes, it passes.”

Last week, the bill’s sponsor — House Deputy Majority Whip Emmett C. Burns Jr. — and other key black Democrats said Mr. Miller was trying to kill the bill. Mr. Burns and other black lawmakers said Mr. Miller’s lack of support for the bill eventually would hurt Democrats at the ballot box.

“This is not my bill. This is not my issue,” Mr. Miller said yesterday. “Thurgood Marshall was an absolute great man, he is a man we should try to emulate in terms of his achievements.”

He said it would probably be more fitting if the University of Maryland School of Law were named after Justice Marshall.

But Mr. Burns yesterday said he still fears that Mr. Miller has been discouraging senators from supporting the bill, which would rename the facility Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

“There is no middle vote in Annapolis,” the Baltimore County Democrat said. “There is no ‘maybe’ or ‘probably.’ ‘Yes’ or ‘no’ — that’s the way things are done.”

The House approved bill this month in a 104-25 vote. It has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a white Republican, has said he would consider the bill. In addition, 28 of the House’s 43 Republicans have voted for the bill.

About 85 percent to 90 percent of blacks vote for Democrats in statewide elections, said Patrick E. Gonzales, president of Annapolis-based Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies.

Mr. Burns said renaming the airport would cost the state about $250,000 because not every sign would need to be replaced.

Senators yesterday gave preliminary approval to a bill championed by homosexual rights advocates that would establish a domestic partner registry and give its members the authority to make medical decisions for each other.

“It’s a way of saying we understand that at the worst time of your life, it’s important to have the people you love close to you,” said Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a registered nurse whose committee handled the bill.

Mrs. Hollinger, Baltimore County Democrat, called the legislation “a sensitivity bill.” She and other supporters shrugged off concerns that the bill opens the door for recognition of same-sex unions.

To make the legislation more attractive to conservative lawmakers, it includes language declaring that it “may not be construed to recognize, condone, or prohibit a domestic partnership, civil union, or marriage recognized in other states or jurisdictions.”

The full Senate is set to cast a final vote on the bill tomorrow, bringing it one step closer to passage.

A similar bill is likely to clear a House of Delegates committee soon, leading lawmakers said. The full House signed off on the legislation last year, but it stalled in the Senate.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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