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Political Notebook: Ulman, Macfarlane to host fundraiser for marriage equality campaign

By Lindsey McPherson, lmcpherson@patuxent.com

5:01 PM EDT, July 11, 2012

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Howard County Register of Wills Byron Macfarlane said when he "came out" to his mother six years ago, her only concern about him being gay was about whether he would have the same rights as his heterosexual siblings. He assured her he would.

"I hope that come November she'll know I was right," said Macfarlane, a Democrat who became the county's first openly gay elected official after winning his 2010 campaign against incumbent Republican Kay Hartleb.

Macfarlane and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, also a Democrat, are hosting a fundraiser Friday, July 13 to raise money for the statewide campaign to defeat the referendum against the bill legalizing same-sex marriage the General Assembly passed earlier this year.

Lawmakers, anticipating the referendum battle, crafted the bill so it would not take effect until January 2013.

Money raised through the fundraiser will go to Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a coalition of human rights groups that are orchestrating efforts to sway people to vote in support of same-sex marriage on the November ballot.

The fundraiser will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Ellicott City home of Ulman's parents, Lou and Diana Ulman.

Macfarlane, who asked Ulman to host the event with him, said it is noteworthy that Ulman selected a venue other than a restaurant or public gathering space.

"He and his family are showing a degree of personal commitment that is very heartwarming to me as one of his constituents," Macfarlane said.

Ulman said he declared his support for marriage equality the first time he was asked about the issue, while running for office in 2006 — "back before lots of people evolved on the issue" — based upon his belief in creating equal opportunities for all.

In his time working as an attorney in estate planning, he said he saw several references in the state code to the term "spouse," a term that limits certain rights to married couples.

"There are many times where those in a loving (same-sex) relationship are not treated equally under the law," Ulman said.

The marriage equality campaign, Macfarlane said, "is going to require a lot of time and money ... There'll be TV ads; there'll be fliers in the mail; there'll be people knocking on doors."

Macfarlane said he eventually plans to knock on doors — at least 8,000, as he did in his Register of Wills Campaign — but the fundraiser "is the first real push for us to generate resources for the campaign here in Howard County."

Requested donations range from $75 for "supporters" to $2,000 for "V.I.P."

Ulman said issue-specific fundraisers are different from ones candidates hold for themselves. However, he did reach out to his "core" supporters in promoting the fundraiser, even though he knows they all don't support same-sex marriage.

"You have some people who will be there because I'm asking them to be there, and others who will be there because it's the most important issue to them," he said.

Several local elected officials plan to attend the event, Ulman said, including Democrats Del. Guy Guzzone and County Council member Courtney Watson, who are also raising money to contribute to the campaign.

Ulman, Watson and Guzzone have been the most aggressive local officials in fundraising recently for their yet unannounced 2014 campaigns.

Asked if he felt raising money for the marriage equality issue would cut into donations to his personal campaign account, Ulman said: "Maybe slightly, but not much. Clearly any time you're raising money for a cause, you take that risk."

Ulman said his strong support for the same-sex marriage law is reason enough to take that risk.

Both Macfarlane and Ulman said they expect Maryland voters to uphold the same-sex marriage bill.

"I think it will be close, but I do (expect the law will be upheld)," Ulman said. "The polling is close, but it's trending in the right direction."

Macfarlane said he hopes county elected officials' support will spur Howard voters to overwhelmingly support the bill.

"We're not a county of backbenchers; we don't sit on the sidelines when the state is looking for leadership," he said. "I'm not satisfied with Howard County voting for marriage equality with 51 percent of the vote or 55 percent of the vote."