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Thursday, January 26, 2006
  Maryland Democrats Struggle To Prevent Public From Getting What They Want
First, a Maryland judge has struck down the traditional definition of marriage, claiming it is irrationally discriminatory. Simple enough. The response:

Even before the ruling yesterday, House Democrats took steps to try to prevent a constitutional ban from reaching a vote on the floor. House leaders made a technical change in procedural rules Thursday, over the objections of Republicans. Residual resentment from that move spilled into yesterday's floor session.

Minority Whip Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Calvert) admonished his Democratic colleagues for what he said was an attempt to shield them from casting a tough vote in an election year. "We should not fear having a debate," he said.

Yesterday, House and Senate leaders met to discuss how to deal with the issue. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) have cast votes supporting the 1973 law against same-sex marriage.

But both also took the position that a constitutional amendment would be premature, because yesterday's ruling came from a single Circuit Court judge, not from the state's precedent-setting high court.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), who chairs the Senate committee that would have to approve an amendment for it to advance, said he saw no reason to act before the Court of Appeals has ruled. "One Circuit Court judge's opinion is not cause for amending the constitution," Frosh said.

Political strategists said Ehrlich and Democrats in the legislature probably have recognized the potential for a ballot initiative to provide the governor with a significant political edge as he seeks reelection. Republican political consultant Kevin Igoe said the ruling was like "waving a red flag at a bull" for Ehrlich's conservative base. If the issue appears on a ballot, he said, it would almost certainly drive up GOP turnout.
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