From the Maryland Daily Record, February 13, 2011:
“While we understand and respect the sensitive nature of this issue to the opponents of the proposed legislation, we feel that the times have changed, our understanding of the origins of sexual orientation has changed, and public opinion is shifting by the day. It is time for Maryland to afford equal rights and equal protections to all its citizens. It is time for Maryland to pass the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act of 2011.”
There are many attorneys who do not believe that attorneys should take sides in political issues of the day. I know of one highly-respected Baltimore County boutique firm that believes that no attorney in its employ should comment publicly on matters of religion or politics at all, due to the sensitivities of their diverse clientele. Some of their attorneys – a brilliant bunch, actually – are active online, but it must be hard for them to be relevant on many issues.
As a matter of policy, I decline to allow the fear of losing a client or clients to keep me, a near life-long Marylander and natural-born U.S. citizen, from participating at least from time to time in civic and social life. Perhaps it’s because of the sorts of clients and practice that make up my office, but I just cannot impose a categorical gag rule on myself that way. It is true that I no longer blog under my former blog Crablaw; I want to be known primarily as an attorney, not as a political blogger. But this is not out of a desire to hide my views, but rather to make sure that people see me as an attorney first, opinionated citizen second. It’s also true that I am a “known quantity” such that anyone who wanted to find out my libertarian-left political views could find them fairly easily; the internet doesn’t really forget.
On this specific issue, I am very pleased that the Daily Record Editorial Board came out as they did. Judge Frederic Smalkin, my former professor of commercial law at MD Law, did not participate in the opinion – a very responsible choice for a federal judge in Maryland who may someday have to rule on constitutional issues regarding this potential statute or related laws. No one who doesn’t personally know Judge Smalkin’s views should derive any conclusion from his non-participation in the opinion, other than his judicial prudence.
I believe, though I have not independently confirmed, that if this bill passes and is signed, Maryland will be the first state in the Union to pass same-sex marriage without either passing a civil unions bill first or getting compelled to act by a court. The Court of Appeals declined, in a 4-3 decision, to overturn the same-sex marriage ban on equal protection grounds (and other grounds) in Deane v. Conaway some years ago.