Day By Day

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Maryland Politics -- The Culture Wars Intervene

A controversial court decision is threatening to completely disrupt the carefully-laid election plans of Maryland's Democratic Party.

Last week a Baltimore Circuit Court struck down the State's law banning same-sex marriages, calling it discriminatory and unconstitutional. The judge immediately stayed the decision and the State Attorney General appealed it.

Here's the problem. The decision hands the Republicans a ready-made campaign issue. Gov. Ehrlich already has stated that he supports an amendment to the Maryland Constitution banning same-sex marriages and some Republican delegates are already starting to campaign on the issue.

Democrats, sensing that the election might be getting away from them, are desperate to get this issue out of the way. Their greatest fear is that in the heat of the election season the Appeals Court will render a judgment supporting the Circuit Court ruling. That could hurt them badly -- suppressing the black vote, which polls overwhelmingly against same sex marriage, while handing the Republicans an issue that would energize social conservatives.

To forestall this eventuality, the Democrat-controlled State Assembly contemplates passing a law that would allow them to seek an injunction putting off any court action on the case until next year. This, all legal experts agree, would be unconstitutional. What is more, gay activist groups are solidly opposed to any delay in a court proceeding from which they expect to benefit.

So, the Democrats have a dilemma. To allow the courts to proceed threatens to stir up culture issues that will hurt them. But, to delay a decision would alienate gays and raise the issue of unconstituional assertion of authority on the part of the Democrat majority in the Legislature. As it stands now it's a no-win situation.

Some Democrats are pushing for an early resolution of the appeal, hoping to put as much time as possible between it and the election, but Republicans will still be able to make a constitutional amendment a campaign issue.

It seems that same-sex marriage is going to be an issue this fall and there's little that the Democrats can do about it. Their best chance, it seems, is to hope that the Republicans over-reach and spark a backlash. Given the proven idiocy of some of the Republican delegates [I'm talkin' 'bout you, Dwyer] that is a distinct possibility.

Stay tuned.

Check out the WaPo story on the issue here.

No comments: