Will New Census Statistics Spur Md. Lawmakers to Support Marriage Equality?
Marriage equality activists hope new census statistics that show the number of same-sex couples in Maryland increased more than 50 percent over the last decade will further spur state lawmakers to support nuptials for gays and lesbians.
The 2010 census recorded 16,987 same-sex couples in the state-or 7.88 same-sex couples per 1,000 households. Sixty-five percent of these couples were lesbians, versus 35 percent of those who were male. And 24 percent of same-sex couples in Maryland were raising children.
The city of Baltimore had the highest number of same-sex couples in the state with 3,226, while Montgomery County had 2,911. Prince George’s County came in third with 2,525, while Baltimore County had 2,456. At the municipal level, Cheverly had the highest concentration of same-sex couples in the state with 27.95 per 1,000 households. Takoma Park had 26.88 same-sex couples per 1,000 households. The census documented 456 same-sex couples in Silver Spring.
"The data shows there are tens of thousands of loving gay and lesbian couples in Maryland who are ready for a state-issued marriage license," said Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign. "They want to make that lifetime commitment to each other. They want to take care of each other-and their families."
Melissa Goemann of the ACLU-Maryland agreed.
"Given the new numbers, it’s hard to deny these thousands of couples access to the protections of marriage," she said. "It is time for the state to do the right thing for all Maryland families and vote to extend the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples."
Governor Martin O’Malley announced last month that marriage equality would be one of his top legislative priorities in Annapolis next year. The Maryland State Senate approved a marriage equality measure by a 25-21 margin in February, but the bill stalled in the House of Delegates because it failed to garner enough support.
The District of Columbia, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont currently allow same-sex couples to legally marry, while California’s Proposition 8 that banned nuptials for gays and lesbians in 2008 continues to work its way through the federal courts.
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, told EDGE that these statistics once again humanize the battle for marriage equality in Maryland. "This is not about gay families in New York, California and Iowa, but right here at home in Maryland-not even across the border in the District of Columbia," he said. "It reminds all of us that our families are everywhere and that the freedom to marry is a question of people doing well locally."
Wolfson stressed he hopes that Maryland legislators pay attention to these statistics when the marriage equality debate returns to Annapolis.
"They [these statistics] underscore how many people are harmed by the denial of marriage," he said. "Maryland needs to do what the District of Columbia has done and stop putting barriers in the path of loving, committed couples seeking to care for their families."