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Did Sam Arora lie about gay marriage on his Equality Maryland questionnaire?

March 4, 2011 - 10:30 AM
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Many in Maryland are pretty steamed at Sam Arora, the Delegate who co-sponsored legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in the state—then began quietly "thinking," "praying," and backtracking early this week. Since Arora first indicated that he could vote "no" on the legislation, stunned constituents have testified that Arora misrepresented himself by campaigning as a progressive Democrat with a strong LGBT platform.

Repeatedly referenced as evidence of Arora's previous support of marriage equality: The campaign questionnaire he completed for Equality Maryland in seeking the state LGBT group's endorsement. "It was an endorsement he requested and he said, not only would he vote for, but he would support the bill and wrote in a passionate statement that it was a 'matter of equality,'" Chevy Chase Mayor David Lubin, a member of Equality Maryland's board of directors, told Metro Weekly. Added Maryland resident Lisa Deane-Polyak: "It contradicts his co-sponsorship of the bill, it contradicts his candidate questionnaire which is signed with his own hand."

Equality Maryland didn't endorse Arora in the primary, but agreed to endorse him in the general election. What did Arora's questionnaire actually say?

Here's the relevant question from Equality Maryland's candidate quiz: "In Maryland, civil marriage confers over 400 benefits and prerogatives that empower couples to care for each other and their families," the question reads. "Would you vote for the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act which would allow same-sex couples to obtain a civil marriage license, and states explicitly that no clergy would be forced to perform a marriage with which they disagree?"

Possible answers to that question: "Yes"; "No"; and "I am or would become a Co-Sponsor to such legislation." Interestingly enough, Arora did not, in fact, indicate that he would vote "yes" on the legislation; he only indicated that he would co-sponsor it. Sneaky? Yes. But also consistent.

Moving on: In his personal statement on the Equality Maryland questionnaire, Arora expressed his support of legislation that would prohibit employment discrimination against gay teachers, as well as legislation that would extend family and medical leave benefits to domestic partners. But he remained oddly quiet on that central issue he had promised to co-sponsor. Here's all Arora had to say about same-sex marriage: "I publicly supported [Attorney General Doug Gansler's] decision to recognize out-of-state marriage licenses for same-sex couples and immediately put out a release praising his findings. For me, it is simply a matter of equal rights under the law."

So Lubin is technically wrong that Arora wrote passionately about same-sex marriage for Maryland couples; he wrote passionately about same-sex marriages for couples from other states. Just for fun, let's check out Arora's lukewarm LGBT thesis statement: "I have worked over the last ten years for a number of progressive campaigns and organizations that share the values of Equality Maryland." So Aurora has worked for campaigns and organizations that share Equality Maryland's values—doesn't mean he shares them himself.

This is not to say that Arora has represented himself consistently on the issue of same-sex marriage—Deane-Polyak, among others, claims that Arora personally expressed his support of same-sex marriage before abruptly changing course this week. What the questionnaire does suggest is that Arora may have always cultivated an impressive shiftiness on this issue. Only in light of Arora's recent switcheroo do his questionnaire answers start to look a little dodgy. It's possible that Arora had been preparing for this change of heart longer than we thought.

UPDATE: Arora has now indicated that he would vote for the bill, but could later support undermining that vote by pushing to put the issue to a popular vote in Maryland. Uh, OK.

The full questionnaire is below.



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