At the WBFF debate for Republican Senate candidates in March, interviewer Kai Jackson (at 35:30) asked a question on same-sex marriage. This might have seemed a set-up for candidate Chrys Kefalas to volunteer something about his own pathbreaking role as a candidate who was gay (and engaged to be married, to radio personality Tommy McFly). But Kefalas didn’t personalize his answer; while indicating his support for legal recognition of same-sex marriage, he also emphasized that he took seriously conservative concerns that legal changes might curtail the liberty of religious institutions, and would work to uphold religious liberty if elected.
Equally interesting was the answer of Minority Whip Del. Kathy Szeliga, who was to go on to win the primary in a runaway, and was generally perceived as running to Kefalas’s right. “This has been a divisive issue in the past but it’s definitely been settled. It was settled on the ballot here in Maryland and it’s been settled in the courts.” Del. Szeliga then added that the voters whose concerns she was running to address were worried not about gay marriage but about the troubles of the U.S. economy and the poor performance of federal programs like the Affordable Care Act.
Del. Szeliga’s answer, it seemed to me, would not have been out of place in an interview response by Gov. Larry Hogan or presidential candidate John Kasich. It signaled that she intends to go after the votes of independents and moderate Democrats this fall, a smart strategy for a Republican running statewide in a state like Maryland.
That wasn’t the only favorable portent on Maryland Republicans’ ability to move beyond past divisions on the marriage issue. Two years ago I wrote with some dismay (“An endorsement no one should want”) about how dozens of Maryland Republican candidates had received (though it was less clear whether they had sought) high ratings from “the group associated with Robert Broadus called Protect Marriage Maryland,” which “stands out for its intense hostility toward gay people, its very explicit grounding of that hostility in religious doctrine, and its willingness to use invective seldom found in polite company any more.” This time around, whether because Protect Marriage Maryland was less active or because fewer candidates pursued its endorsement or filled out its questionnaire, its endorsement page limited itself to endorsing a single Republican, Senate candidate Dave Wallace, who came in fifth. Robert Broadus himself ran for the Republican nomination to the U.S. House of Representatives in District 4, but finished third, behind George McDermott and David Therrien.