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Same-sex marriage in Maryland

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"If marriage means everything, it means absolutely nothing." Dr. James C. Dobson, of Focus on the Family.

bullet "A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry. Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not allowed to marry. How should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs or as humans?" A posting to an Internet mailing list; used by permission of the author.
bullet "Equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged or denied because of sex." Article 46 of the Declaration of Rights section of the Maryland Constitution.
bullet "That no man ought to be taken or imprisoned or disseized of his freehold, liberties or privileges, or outlawed, or exiled, or, in any manner, destroyed, or deprived of his life, liberty or property, but by the judgment of his peers, or by the Law of the land." Article 24 of the Declaration of Rights section of the Maryland Constitution.

Lack of protections for same-sex couples:

Same-sex couples in Maryland, like those in most other states in the U.S. are not permitted to marry. For the protection of themselves and of their children, same-sex couples must resort to creating "a patchwork of legal protections that come nowhere close to guaranteeing the family's sovereignty will be honored." 1

Equality Maryland has prepared a report titled: "Marriage Inequality in the State of Maryland." It states:

"... meticulously details the legal obstacles couples must face in an attempt to secure some of the most basic protections of marriage, like the right to make medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse, basic property ownership rights and inheritance rights."

Same-sex couples in the state have no automatic legal right to programs enjoyed by every opposite-sex married couple. For example, to:

bullet Take family and medical leave to care for a sick partner
bullet Ride in an ambulance with a partner
bullet Visit a partner in a nursing home or hospital
bullet Receive Social Security benefits in the event of the death of a partner
bullet Sponsor a foreign-born partner to stay in the country
bullet Inherit jointly owned property without incurring crippling tax penalties
bullet Roll a partner's pension into their own
bullet Make burial decisions
bullet Have the security of continued insurance coverage after the death of a spouse.
bullet Take advantage of social services provided to help families cope with catastrophe, poverty, homelessness, or abandonment. 1,2,3

Deane & Polyak v. Conaway lawsuit:

On 2004-JUL-07, nine same-sex couples and a man whose partner recently died, initiated a lawsuit against the state of Maryland. They are being assisted by the American Civil Liberties Association (ACLU) and Equality Maryland, a gay-positive advocacy group.

In Maryland law, Family Law section 2-201 specifically prohibits same-sex marriage. It was passed in 1973 and states that "Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this state." The plaintiffs claim that this law violates Article 46 and Article 24 of the Declaration of Rights section of the Maryland Constitution "... because it discriminates, based on gender against a suspect class, and is not narrowly tailored to serve any compelling government interests." 4

A Q & A section of the ACLU website states:
"The state provides hundreds of rights and protections to straight couples who marry but denies those rights and protections to lesbian and gay couples who, like straight couples, need to be able to protect their families during times of hardship such as illness and death. The goal of this lawsuit is to make legal marriage, as well as the protections that come with it under state law, available to same-sex couples just as it is to different-sex couples." 4
Some of the plaintiffs have had horrendous experiences because they have not been able to marry. Some examples are:

bullet Gita Deane and Lisa Polyak have been together for 25 years and are raising two daughters. When Deane was giving birth to their second daughter, the doctor asked that Lisa leave the room because, as Gita's partner, she had no status; she was considered to be a mere roommate. The doctor left Gita in pain and only administered an epidural after Lisa had left. 5
bullet Takia Foskey and Jo Rabb have been together for over three years. They had a commitment ceremony in 2004 and are raising two children. In 2003, Jo had an emergency operation. Takia was unable to see Jo in the hospital or to receive any information about her condition during recovery.
bullet Donna Myers and Maria Baarquero have known each other for six years. However, Maria is from Costa Rica and Donna is a citizen of the U.S. They can only visit each other during vacations.
bullet John Lestitian and Jim were together for almost 14 years. Jim died and left a will giving his entire estate to John. But there was a technical problem that made the will invalid. If they had been married, John would have inherited Jim's home automatically. But the law treated them as simple roommates. John had to move out of his own home shortly after his partner's death. 6
The plaintiffs applied for marriage licenses in Circuit Court clerk's offices across the state, and were all denied because they were of the same sex. They then launched their lawsuit. Oral arguments were heard before the Baltimore Circuit Court (BCC) on 2005-AUG-30.

On 2006-JAN-20, Judge M. Brooke Murdock of the BCC found for the plaintiffs. She ruled that Family Law, section 2-201 "constitutes unjustified discrimination based on gender, in violation of Article 46 of Maryland's Declaration of Rights." However, she suspended the plaintiffs' freedom to marry pending any appeal. The court rejected the defendants' claims that:
bullet The state had a legitimate interest in promoting the traditional -- opposite-sex -- family unit to the exclusion of same-sex couples..
bullet A ban on same-sex marriage is needed to preserve the uniformity of federal and interstate definitions of marriage.
bullet Various laws such as those allowing second parent adoption, designation of partners to make health care decisions, etc. are sufficient to handle the needs of same-sex couples and their children.
bullet Tradition in the U.S. has always restricted marriage to one man and one or more women. 4 On this final topic, judge Murdock wrote:
"Although tradition and societal values are important, they cannot be given so much weight that they alone will justify a discriminatory statutory classification. When tradition is the guise under which prejudice or animosity hides, it is not a legitimate state interest." 5

The appeal to the Maryland Court of Appeals:

The state appealed the case directly to the Court of Appeals -- Maryland's most senior court. In doing so, they bypassed an intermediate court. Oral arguments were heard on 2006-DEC-04. The court's decision was issued on 2007-SEP-18.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Report: Couples face severe obstacles obtaining substitute marriage benefits," News release, Equality Maryland, 2006-MAR-16, at: 
  2. Text of the report is available at: *
  3. A summary of the key protections is available at: *
  4. Deane & Polyak Baltimore Circuit Court decision, at: *
  5. Barbara Bradley Hagerty, "Maryland Judge Rejects Gay-Marriage Ban," NPR, 2006-JAN-20, at:
  6. "Deane and Polyak v. Conaway: About the Plaintiffs," ACLU, 2004-JUL-13, at:

* These are PDF files. You may require software to read them. Software can be obtained free from: 

Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > MD > here

Copyright 2007 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-MAR-03
Latest update: 2010-JAN-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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