Martin O'Malley, Maryland Governor, Sounds Off On Gay Marriage, Obama, Chris Christie

On the eve of a historic vote in the Maryland Senate on a marriage equality bill, Governor Martin O’Malley appeared confident that the bill, which passed the House of Delegates last week, would pass the senate and be on his desk perhaps by the weekend. Maryland would become the 8th state to offer marriage rights to gays and lesbians, though the law could face a voter referendum in November.

O'Malley also discussed Dick Cheney’s lobbying of Maryland legislators to pass the bill, President Obama’s still-evolving position on marriage for gays and lesbians, and whether or not marriage equality should be included in the platform hammered out at the Democratic Party’s convention this year. And in a follow-up, the governor’s spokesperson responded to a question about Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a marriage equality bill in New Jersey by saying O’Malley was doing what is right for children of gay and lesbian parents.

“I believed that in my short service to the people of this state that the consensus point on this issue could only be reached around civil unions,” O’Malley said of his prior position on the issue, appearing on my radio program on SiriusXM OutQ on Wednesday. “I was wrong. It became possible to reach a consensus on marriage equality.”

“There’s been an evolution in the broadest sense among the people of our state,” he continued. “Initially, when this issue first became very visible, after Mayor Gavin Newsom conducted marriages in San Francisco [in 2004], I think initially a lot of people had a lot of fear -- and a lot of misplaced fear -- and over time I think people have come to realize that the way forward, among people of many different faiths, is always through the greater and broader respect for equal rights for all.”

In response to reports that former Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter Mary is a lesbian, was lobbying Maryland legislators, O’Malley said: “I welcome bipartisan cooperation wherever it happens.There were lots of people making lots of calls and I think that’s a good and healthy thing. There’s not a family among us that doesn’t have a friend or a relative who is gay. All of those stories come together around this issue and it transcends party.”

Discussing President Obama’s public position on marriage equality -- which is not quite as evolved as Dick Cheney’s -- O’Malley appeared to view the president’s position as one that is more so driven by perceived political realities.

“I think the president is doing as best he can and as quickly as he can with an electorate that’s broader, frankly, than the State of Maryland and the State of New York,” he said. “He’s stepped up in a number of ways to move us forward on this issue and and to lead. I don’t have much doubt about the direction our country is moving. The direction is always forward.”

Responding to the push by activists to have the Democratic National Committee incorporate marriage equality in the party’s platform this year at its convention, O’Malley said he would “‘perhaps” be in favor of it, noting that he “hadn’t given a whole lot of thought” to it and believed the party needed to focus first and foremost on job recovery heading into the election.

O’Malley discussed how he tried to create consensus around same-sex marriage in a state that tried but failed to pass a marriage equality bill last year.

“I encouraged people to look at it through the eyes of children of gay and lesbian couples,” he explained. “And it is not right, and it is not just, that children of gay and lesbian parents should have lesser protections. It was about equal rights for all.”

The issue of children was raised again when a spokesperson for the governor responded to a follow-up question asking for reaction to Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a marriage equality bill in New Jersey: “In contrast to what is happening in New Jersey, Governor O’Malley has always said he would sign a bill if passed. All children should live in loving, stable and committed homes. The governor is proud of the steps taken thus far by Maryland legislators to step up and protect rights equally.”

Listen to the full interview: