Howard County and civic equality in the 21st century, part 3

In my previous posts (part 1 and part 2) I introduced the topic of same-sex marriage as a civil right, discussed how many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) people might actually live in Howard County and how many of them might be living as same-sex couples, and concluded that in this particular context Howard County seemed to have no special claim to being more diverse than the rest of the nation or the rest of the state. In fact, Howard County and Maryland both appear to be below average in terms of the LGBT population and the number of same-sex couples.

Why is this, and why isn’t Maryland, supposedly one of the most reliably liberal and Democratic of the blue states, further down the road toward granting same-sex couples full equality when it comes to civil marriage?

I’m not going to try to answer the first question, as anything I have to say would be pure speculation. For example, does it have anything to do with the proximity of DC as an alternative place to live, the structure of Maryland’s economy (e.g., the relative mix of professions), or Maryland’s higher proportion of Federal workers, military personnel, or people with clearances? I have absolutely no idea, and would welcome informed opinions on the subject.

As to the second question, the most prominent theory, advanced by Aaron Davis in a Washington Post article, is that Maryland is more socially conservative than its record of voting for Democrats would indicate, and that that social conservatism is then magnified by a legislature dominated by long-time career politicians not eager to rock the boat.

In general I’d conclude that Maryland does lead Virginia, but not necessarily by as much as we might think. To go back to the comparison of same-sex marriage to interracial marriage, it’s worth noting that Maryland and Virginia were the two original states to enact anti-miscegenation laws, and both kept them in place for almost three centuries. The only reason Maryland escaped having its law struck down by Loving v. Virginia was because Maryland legislators had seen the writing on the wall and repealed it a few months earlier.

Steve Charing recently asked Will our wedding bells ever ring in Maryland? That’s a question that doesn’t yet have a good answer; however I’m cautiously optimistic. Although Maryland may not be as far along as we might think in the road to acceptance of same-sex marriage, it may be far enough. Most notably, supporters of same-sex marriage now have a plurality with respect to opponents (46% to 44%, with 10% on the fence).

While this is not enough support to drive legislative approval of same-sex marriage (or even civil unions), it may well be enough to prevent roll-back of actions like Attorney General Doug Gansler’s opinion in favor of recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. In fact, the same poll referenced above showed a clear 55% majority in favor of Gansler’s action, and clearly Gansler’s action proved to be no impediment whatsoever to his re-election this fall. Given that Maryland has at least somewhat of a head start on other states in this regard, and presuming that having Maryland-recognized same-sex married couples in our midst leads to increased familiarity and acceptance on the part of Maryland voters, it may be that support for home-grown same-sex marriage may reach a tipping point sooner rather than later.

If so, will Howard County just ride the wave, or is there anyone out there who’ll play a Jim Rouse-like role in terms of getting out in front on the issue and actively working to make Howard County a preferred destination for same-sex married couples? As far as our local politicians are concerned, I haven’t had time to completely go through HoCo Rising’s exhaustive list of candidates’ websites looking for their positions on the matter. However I’ll note two things:

First, although some local Democrats picked up endorsements from Equality Maryland (Elizabeth Bobo, Edward Kasemeyer, and Frank Turner) I couldn’t find any explicit statements in support of same-sex marriage, civil unions, or other LGBT issues on their web sites. However Liz Bobo’s site does have a reference to human rights, which in this context is presumably the classic euphemism for the issue that dare not speak its name.

On the Republican side, Alan Kittleman apparently believes that the Maryland Republican party should focus on the economy and go easy on the social issues. Given the position of the national party and the feelings of Maryland Republicans (69% of whom oppose same-sex marriage), this almost makes Kittleman a flaming social liberal. Meanwhile I can’t tell what Gail Bates or Warren Miller think, since on the Bates-Miller campaign web site the Issues link doesn’t work. (Make of that what you will.)

Some of this reticence is understandable; we’re talking about an issue that is controversial and affects only a small number of people, in a time when people are more concerned about the economy and other larger issues. And as I noted above, with interracial marriage the main players in the legal sphere were the courts, with private entrepreneurs like Jim Rouse playing a positive parallel role in the social and economic spheres.

Will the courts also help bring same-sex marriage to Maryland, with the legislature finally bowing to the inevitable? Whether and when that will happen remains unknown. However if it would be a nice instance of historical congruence if full marriage equality came to Maryland by 2017, so that some marriages could be celebrated in Howard County that June, along with the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia and the 50th birthday of Columbia.

13 thoughts on “Howard County and civic equality in the 21st century, part 3

  1. HoCo Rising

    Thanks for the link, Frank. That you, also, for thoroughly digesting this incredibly important topic. Well done.

    1. hecker Post author

      Thanks in turn for the link back to my post(s). This was an interesting series of posts for me because I found the story behind the data as interesting in many ways as the data itself and its implications.

  2. Sarah

    Great posts, and very enlightening on a statistical level (shaky as they may be, as you point out). Howard County’s not really a hip, happ’nin’ place, so that could account for some of the lack of diversity, but then again, lower than the national average is surprising. I look forward to the next Census results.

    This is probably the #1 reason why I would hesitate voting for a Republican. Fiscal conservatism is great, and we need it badly, but denying two consenting adults the right to marry (or hell, even enter a civil union) is just wrong, and I have yet to be convinced by any sort of logic to the contrary. Republican candidates might be focusing on fiscal issues, but I need to know what way they’ll vote when/if the rubber hits the road, especially if it comes quicker than we think.

    1. hecker Post author

      Sarah, thanks for the comment. On the “hip, happ’nin’ place” hypothesis, note that same-sex unmarried couples are only 0.7% of all households in Baltimore city, half that of DC and Arlington and only slightly more than Montgomery County. So I’m not sure this is the entire explanation, at least if we believe the hype that Baltimore is a relatively hip and happening sort of place.

      I’m a registered Democrat, so I’ll leave comments about Republican positions on this issue to HoCo Rising; it’s really his fight and not mine.

    2. HoCo Rising

      I almost replied the first time I saw Sarah’s post about “never voting Republican.” My honest belief is that civic equality is a conservative plank that goes untended. What is more conservative than the government getting out of the way? In this case, I don’t see why the govt. has anything to do with marriage whasoever.

      Now, the clear reality is that the GOP has branded themselves the “family values” party by opposing gay marriage (while conveniently silent on divorce). Seeing that gay marriage has not come up for a vote (and isn’t necessarily on the horizon), I don’t think this issue is reason alone not to vote for a Republican who has other strong attributes. I don’t like litmus test issues, but if I were to have one, this would be it (ok, and maybe direct shipping also). The real question for you two Dems is…would you vote for a Republican if he was for civic equality and his opponent was against? Or would your hand shrivel as you reached for the (R) lever?

      1. hecker Post author

        In general I’m a pretty reliable Democratic voter, and it would take a lot to make me vote for a Republican candidate. I don’t really do litmus tests, so I wouldn’t not vote for a Democrat just because they were opposed to marriage equality — or vote for a Republican just because they supported it when the Democratic candidate didn’t. I’d probably look at their overall positions and decide on other grounds, with my giving the Democratic candidate the benefit of the doubt, all other things being equal.

        For example, in a local context the fact that Alan Kittleman doesn’t seem intent on fighting the culture wars is a major plus as far as I’m concerned, and puts him up a few notches as a candidate in my eyes. On the other hand, as I understand it he’s a big promoter of the Taxpayer Protection Initiative, and given my position on the TPI I just couldn’t see supporting him under any likely circumstances.

      2. HoCo Rising

        In reply to Frank, well said. I could see myself voting for a Democrat, but probably not on the basis of a litmus test issue (although I think that is a great topic for a blog post that I may work up [i.e., if civic equality is the civil rights issue of our generation, shouldn’t it be a litmus test vote?]).

        I think political parties play a great role in our Country’s problems, but I also recognize that to be without a party normally means you are without a voice. It is sad that our government, the product of incredible intelligence and deliberation, has become a team sport.

      3. Sarah

        Hey, now, wait, I didn’t say I would never vote for a Republican. I said it gives me pause– I would hesitate.

        That being said, my view is somewhat of a litmus test, but it’s often also indicative of which way a candidate will swing on other issues that are important to me as well. Are there Dem candidates that are pro-choice and anti gay-marriage out there? Some of these things go hand in hand.

  3. Sarah

    Fair enough. I didn’t look at the statistics any further than you linked, so that’s even more interesting. Thanks.

  4. Alan Klein

    As a candidate for Howard County Council in District 4 (West Columbia and Fulton), I am proud to have been endorsed by the Stonewall Democrats of Central Maryland and publicly display that on my web site.

    From what I know of Delegate Liz Bobo, her long standing vocal support and legislative actions on behalf of civil equality place her fully alongside of me as an ally of the GLBTQ community.

    1. hecker Post author

      Alan: Thanks for stopping by and making your position known. Note that I didn’t look at any other websites other than incumbents, and also looked only at candidates for state-level offices, which is why I didn’t notice your endorsement by the Stonewall Democrats.

  5. Pingback: More on same-sex marriage and civic equality « Frank Hecker

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