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Equality: Coming to a state near you?

Even for a Republican in this bluest of states, there seems to be no such word as “moderate” in the GOP’s dictionary. Just ask Allan Kittleman. He’s a Republican who represents Howard and Carroll counties in the state senate. He’s lived in Maryland all his life, has been married for more than 23 years and has four children. He wants to repeal tax increases and has voted against Gov. Martin O’Malley’s “bloated” budget; some have speculated he might one day run for governor.

And up until two weeks ago, he was the state senate minority leader, but resigned from his leadership position after sparking outrage for supporting one very toxic issue. It is an issue that threatens the very foundation of our society; an issue that if made law would bring America to her knees as a force of monstrous evil ravaged the country. The issue is the legal recognition of same-sex unions.

For a Republican leader to voice just an inkling of support for gay Americans is about as dangerous for them politically as openly admitting that President Barack Obama is in fact not a socialist. But this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, it has always been the conservative flank of American politics that has stood in the way of any progressive movement and the Republican Party in particular that, for half a century, has fortified its opposition to change.

That said, it appears as though Republicans will once again be on the wrong side of history.

This month, legislators in Annapolis will debate a bill that would allow the state to issue marriage licenses to gay couples (it already recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states). Many of the bills’ more than 70 co-sponsors in the senate and House of Delegates sound confident they have the support needed for it to pass, and perhaps more importantly, O’Malley has promised to sign any such bill that lands on his desk.

For advocates of equality, the development is a substantial one and will likely push the state onto the national scene in the months ahead. But for those who have long worked to ensure gay Americans remain second-class citizens, the legislation is likely to bring on a conniption. The Maryland Catholic Conference has already squealed with disapproval, and the National Organization for Marriage, whose 2009 “Gathering Storm” commercial became one of the most parodied political ads in recent memory, has promised to bring the issue to a ballot vote as it did in California.

Nevertheless, the events unfolding are historic. Maryland would become the sixth state (not counting the District of Columbia) to legally guarantee the rights of all its citizens regardless of their sexuality and in doing so would continue this country down a path being followed by most of the Western world.

Some will no doubt argue that America — and Maryland — must stand as the last defense in a war being waged against morality and Christendom. This is nonsense, and such entrenched opinions, which echo the forgotten debate over interracial marriage, will decay with time.

Even so, bigots will always exist. Their permanence is guaranteed by ignorance. But more often than not, they are almost always forgotten. However, it is men like Kittleman, who have the courage to stand for what is right and just, that are remembered. Kittleman may only support civil unions, but he also supports progress.

For other members of his party, that is a position worth noting.

Justin Snow is senior history major. He can be reached at snow at umdbk dot com.

Originally published in The Diamondback.

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