Today's news that State Senator Allan Kittleman was resigning as majority leader in part due to his support of Civil Unions for gay couples is not really the way you want to conclude the first week of the General Assembly session.
On the surface, Senator Kittleman was not "removed" so to speak by a vote of the caucus, but it sounds pretty clear that the other eleven Senators were not particularly comfortable with their majority leader being outspoken on the issue of civil unions, even if his support of this was clear and separate from his duties as Minority Leader.
And all of this is quite the damn shame. This is an issue that we have written about at RM before, as Mark expanded upon the Kittleman bill a few days ago. And I expanded upon my position on gay marriage some time back, and I want to repost part of that now:
But you know something? The concept of two people of the same sex getting married doesn't give me heartburn. I couldn't possibly care less what two consenting adults do. What gives me heartburn is the concept of government caring who can marry whom. In the eyes of government, marriage is a contract; nothing more, nothing less. By spending so much worrying about it is advocating for big government conservatism to me. Sorry.And that is why I have such consternation that Senator Kittleman felt forced out as Minority Leader. Senator Kittleman's position is a principled stance in favor of smaller government. A bill supporting civil unions (though certainly not as far the bill should go) is the first step towards making gay couples whole. Making sure that individuals have the same rights in a court of law regardless of they are in a gay or straight relationship. Some people may say that this is the "expansion of government", but it isn't; it's the removal of the power of government to deny rights to certain citizens.
In short, Kittleman's civil unions bill promotes individual liberty for all citizens.
Of course the problem here for the Republican Senate Caucus is the fact that this issue goes far beyond just an ideological problem. Sure, I can understand the religious objections of some Senators. And yes, I take great umbrage with the ideological issue of gay marriage somehow being against limited government principles. But this kind of things becomes a political problem in a hurry for two very important reasons:
- Young voters don't buy into it. In my position on the Executive Board of the Maryland Young Republicans I speak often with voters who are fiscally conservative, but do not buy into the idea of using the apparatus of the state to deny individual liberties to anybody, especially when two consenting adults who aren't hurting anybody else are involved.
- The Tea Party. Guess what? A lot of tea partiers are libertarian leaners who don't believe that the apparatus of the state should be used to punish individuals, either. Tea Partiers are folks who believe in less government and personal responsibility, and that is their ideological lodestar. Opposition to gay marriage oft-times runs opposite of that.
When a principled conservative like Dick Cheney gets that, it should be time to reexamine where we as a party are at on this issue.
Senator Kittleman is to be commended here; not only is he taking a principled stand in supporting civil unions, but also a principled stand in stepping down as Minority Leader. It shows that he can balance doing what is right with the idea of being a supportive member of the Caucus. But it is a great loss for our party and a great loss for the caucus because it shows that the Senate Caucus still cannot always see the forest for the trees when it comes to issues such as gay marriage, and it has a chance to do harm to us both on principle but also at the ballot box...