Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland came to Hartford to headline a Connecticut Democratic fundraising dinner Friday night, but he will go home with checks for a campaign to save the gay marriage law he signed on March 1.

O’Malley, 49, the chairman of the Democratic Governor’s Association, said the fundraiser was quickly arranged by his friend and host, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a longtime supporter of gay rights and marriage equality.

“I don’t know what we raised,” said O’Malley, who wore a lapel pin of Dignity, the gay Catholic advocacy group. “I hope we raised a lot.”

Opponents of gay marriage are trying to force a referendum to overturn the law that was passed with lobbying support from a diverse array of political figures, including Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney.


Gov. Martin O’Malley

“We just decided to do it,” Malloy said. “As you know, I believe in equality, marriage equality. The governor was good enough to get the law passed in Maryland. If there’s going to be a referendum, we’re going to fight back.”

The small fundraising party was held around the corner from the Executive Residence at the Asylum Avenue home of Jay Morton, the governor’s neighbor and his designee on the board of the Wadsworth Atheneum.

It preceded the Connecticut Democrats’ major annual fundraiser at the Connecticut Convention Center, the Jefferson Jackson Bailey Dinner. O’Malley was the keynote speaker.

Malloy introduced O’Malley, who was dubbed by Esquire in 2002 as the “best young mayor in the country” as a potential presidential candidate. The two are old friends from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore for seven years before his election as governor in 2006. Malloy was mayor of Stamford for 14 years before his election as governor in 2010.

The small fundraising party for gay marriage was held around the corner from the Executive Residence at the Asylum Avenue home of Jay Morton, his neighbor and designee on the board of trustees of the Wadsworth Atheneum.

O’Malley said mayors bond easily.

“The wonderful thing about mayors, they are not ideological,” O’Malley said. “People know, either their streets are cleaned, or they’re not.”

O’Malley said he believed Maryland’s history of religious tolerance was responsible for it becoming the southernmost state to enact a gay marriage law.

“The common ground we found in Maryland was around our historic commitment to religious freedom, as well as our commitment to human dignity,” O’Malley said. “It was those two principles that really founded our state.”

In trying to save gay marriage, O’Malley can expect to be opposed by former Bridgeport Bishop William E. Lori, who was recently named archbishop of Baltimore by Pope Benedict.

O’Malley said he didn’t get any advice about dealing with the new archbishop at the gay-marriage fundraiser. He smiled and said, “Not really, we didn’t talk too much about him.”

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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