I was sitting in the office of a Prince George’s County senator this week and the phone was ringing off the hook.
“It’s been like this for two days,” the senator’s scheduler informed me. Apparently, the senator’s constituents – mostly Black and lower income – have been calling to voice their disapproval for the state’s prospective gay marriage law to be debated again this session. It seems all of the calls opposed gay marriage.
It was the same day Gov. Martin O’Malley appeared before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to offer his support for a same-sex marriage bill re-written by his office.
“We all want the same thing for our children. It is not right and it is not just that the children of gay couples should have lesser protections than the children of other families in our state,” O’Malley said during the packed hearing.
Another hearing scheduled to be held in the House of Delegates should be significantly more raucous.
Last year’s same-sex marriage legislation passed the Senate, but was pulled off the House floor when it was feared that it would not pass. O’Malley’s bill should make it through the Senate as well, but it is unclear how it will fair in the House. Despite the significant political capital the governor has invested in the controversial issue, the lines of opposition to it – especially in some segments of the Black community – seem undeterred.
Round two of the battle for same-sex marriage in Maryland is just beginning.
I also sat down for a few minutes with Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell who represents the 44th Legislative District of Baltimore. The 44th will soon be known as 44 A and B after Gov. O’Malley’s redistricting map – unpopular with many Black legislators – is officially adopted.
The 2010 Census was not kind to the district, which lost more than 25,000 people in the last 10 years more than any other district in the state.
Two-thirds of the new district is in the Baltimore County communities of Catonsville, Security, Woodlawn and Lochearn, which of course calls for a dramatically different strategy for the veteran senator to defend her seat.
Jones-Rodwell, the leader of the Baltimore City Senate Delegation argues she did not fare well on the governor’s redistricting map.
“Personally, all of the areas which I spent the last 13 years bringing resources to and building up that I can point out different projects I’ve done there have been taken from me,” Jones-Rodwell said.
Some of the projects she cites are the State Center Project in Upton, the Uplands project off of Edmondson Avenue near the former location of New Psalmist Baptist Church and the University of Maryland Biotech project near Martin Luther King Jr., Boulevard.
“The one that is most troublesome as far as the loss is the Uplands project, a project that I worked very hard on that I was told I was going to get…I just didn’t like the process,” Jones-Rodwell said referring to the redistricting process.
“And I personally don’t think that was fair…and some of the most vulnerable communities that were in the 44th are being connected with the county and if I don’t run…if someone does not have the interest of Baltimore City is elected to represent the 44th District it’s a problem,” she added.
The radical reconfiguration of the 44th, historically one of the poorest districts in the city will be a problem for more than Jones-Rodwell. Delegates Keith Haynes and Melvin Stukes who both live in the 44th would be moved to the 40th and 41st respectively and would presumably have to run against each other in 2014.
The changes in the 44th would also impact Sen. Delores Kelley, the county’s only Black senator. Her district would still be majority Black, but less so.
The changes proposed by the governor would become official on Feb. 25.