Source: Washington Blade

Democratic Senate candidate supports court ruling while opponents dodge

Leading Maryland Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume supports equal marriage rights for gay couples, he told the Blade Monday.

Former congressman Kweisi Mfume, one of the leading Democratic candidates for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat, says the state’s courts had no choice but to strike down heterosexual-only marriage. (File photo by AP)

Maryland has been pushed into the national spotlight since the Baltimore Circuit Court ruled Friday that it was unconstitutional to prohibit gays and lesbians from marrying. The decision is being appealed.

"As someone who was raised to believe in traditional marriage, it does not mean others cannot have different beliefs," the former congressman and past president of the NAACP said in a telephone interview. "I recognize [civil union] laws don’t cover all the benefits and all the rights that could and should be accrued to same sex couples."

Mfume has in the past supported civil unions and opposed efforts to amend the federal constitution to block states from marrying gay couples. In September, a spokesperson from Mfume’s office would not confirm the candidate’s position on same sex marriage. At the time, an official with Equality Maryland said the group had met with Mfume and he was "forming an opinion on equal marriage and civil unions… He’s willing to listen. He asked a lot of questions."

Gay marriage is a difficult religious and philosophical issue, Mfume said on Monday. However, governments must respect equal protection for all people regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, he said.

"Are we prepared to give that equal protection to all people?" he said. "I don’t know how the courts could have come up with any decision than what they did."

In an interview with the Washington Post published yesterday, Jan. 22, Mfume said he respected the court’s ruling but stopped short of endorsing gay marriage.

Congressman Ben Cardin, the other leading Democratic candidate, told the Blade last fall that he supports civil unions but he would not say his position on gay marriage. The Post reported yesterday that Cardin supports legal protection for gay couples and opposes an amendment to the state’s constitution banning gays from marrying. He did not take a position on the issue itself.

One other Democrat in the crowded primary field, Lise Van Susteren, told the Blade last fall that she backs full marriage rights for gay couples. Other Democrats in the race, including former Baltimore County executive Dennis Rasmussen, haven’t yet taken a position.

Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, the leading Republican, has also avoided taking a position, saying gay marriage is a state issue and he is seeking federal office. He did attend a Defend Maryland Marriage rally a year ago that called for a state constitutional ban on gay marriage.

"We are here to affirm that marriage is only between a man and a woman. We need to make it clear where Maryland stands," Steele was quoted as saying at the event.

Independent candidate Kevin Zeese also told the Blade last fall that he backs full marriage rights.