Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Delegate Melvin Stukes = Hurtful // A Guest Column On Cowardgate (aka the GOP's Cover Story for Hatred)

Today, Maryland Juice is publishing a guest column by Dan Furmansky:
 "Cowards" is certainly a loaded word, and Maryland's First Lady got boatloads of flak for using it recently to describe some marriage equality opponents in the Maryland General Assembly. Likely, she was referring to those handful of Democratic delegates who had co-sponsored the measure last year, but then backed off after constituents weighed in with opposition. That left proponents of ending marriage discrimination in our state short of the anticipated 71 votes needed for passage in the House of Delegates. One legislator who falls into this category is Del. Melvin Stukes of Baltimore City.
The Washington Post reports, "Last year, Stukes was a co-sponsor of a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage. Stukes has since said he was under the mistaken impression that bill would have allowed civil unions. He also was among those who voiced offense at recent comments by Maryland’s first lady, Catherine Curran O’Malley, in which she called opponents of last year’s bill “cowards.”

Apparently Del. Stukes possesses such righteous indignation at the First Lady's usage of the word "coward" that he has cosponsored venomous legislation put forth by Republican Delegate Don Dwyer (R-Glen Burnie), the ring-leader of Maryland's anti-gay movement, who last year passed around literature to his colleagues that came from MassResistance, an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Dwyer's bill is a constitutional amendment, "Adding a new section to the Maryland Constitution to establish that a marriage between one man and one woman shall be the only domestic legal union valid or recognized in the State."

Last year, Del. Stukes explained his about-face on marriage equality -- after having cosponsored the bill to end marriage discrimination four years in a row -- by telling the Baltimore Sun that he had made a mistake in thinking the bill paved the way for civil unions.

Del. Stukes possessed no shame in admitting that he didn't understand legislation that he co-sponsored four years in a row, legislation with the word "marriage" in the title. But Stukes' civil unions excuse doesn't work for him anymore now that he has aligned himself with the Don Dwyer Anti-Gay Gang.

Note the language in Dwyer's amendment: It does not say that only a marriage between a man and a women will be valid and recognized in the State, which is current Maryland statute. Rather, it would amend the constitution with language staying a marriage between a man and a woman "shall be the only domestic legal union valid or recognized in the State."

That means, if passed, the constitutional amendment would also render illegal civil unions between same-gender couples. Likely, it would imperil registered domestic partnerships between both same-gender and opposite-gender couples. In more than one state, anti-gay forces used legally vague amendments such as this one to challenge the granting of healthcare benefits to domestic partners of local and state government employees.

Del. Stukes isn't the only Democrat on the bill; there are a handful of others. But he's the only one who cosponsored a marriage equality measure four years in a row, publicly rescinded his support claiming he supported civil unions, and then made a public stink in castigating the First Lady for calling out him and his ilk as cowards.

There are many words that can be used to describe Del. Stukes' behavior. But as a gay Marylander, the one I keep returning to is this:


Dan Furmansky has lived in Silver Spring, Md. for more than a decade. He served as Executive Director of Equality Maryland from 2003-2008. He and his fiance, Jonathan Wood, will be married later this year in Massachusetts, the first state in the country to end marriage discrimination.

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