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Same-sex marriage in Maryland

Constitutional amendment,
Impeachment, Appeal ruling.

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Constitutional Amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage:

Thirty one legislators who were opposed to marriage equity in the state attempted to initiate an amendment to the state constitution that would restrict marriages to one man and one woman. If passed, it would have been submitted to the voters for a vote.

Called  "Maryland's Marriage Protection Act", (HB 48) was rejected by the Judiciary Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates on 2006-FEB-02. 1

Two subsequent attempts were made in the Senate to pass similar amendments: SB 262 2 and SB 690 3 Both were tied up in committee and died when the legislature recessed in 2006-MAY.

Attempt to impeach Judge Murdock:

Wikipedia reported that on 2006-MAR-07, Delegate Dwyer:

"... introduced a resolution in the Maryland General Assembly to impeach Judge M. Brooke Murdock, charging her with 'violating the public trust, abuse of power, incompetence, willful neglect of duty, and misbehavior in office' for her Circuit Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage. Dwyer's resolution was defeated by a 19-3 vote in the Judiciary Committee on March 10." 4

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Maryland Court of Appeals issues ruling:

The court dismissed the appeal on 2007-SEP-18. 5 Equality Maryland, a group that supports equal marriage rights for persons of all sexual orientations, commented:

"The vote in the case was 4 to 3. One of the dissenting judges said the legislature should either be required to adopt civil unions or marriage. The other two said that the case should be sent back to the lower court for a trial to see if government has a good enough reason to bar same-sex couples from marriage. The majority opinion rejected the ACLU's arguments that barring same-sex couples from marriage is sex discrimination." 15

Knight Ridder Tribune published the following editorial titled "A civil right:"

"A fractured Maryland Court of Appeals couldn't agree on a constitutional basis for affirming the right of same-sex couples to marry or even to share in the legal benefits that marriage provides."

"But yesterday's ruling, issued in four separate versions by the seven judges, pointedly invited the General Assembly to provide the statutory underpinnings that will allow Maryland to reflect the societal shift under way toward acceptance of gay unions. That's an entreaty Gov. Martin O'Malley and the lawmakers ought to quickly accept. The high court's tortured decision underscores how difficult it is to continue to defend limiting marriage to a man and a woman on the basis of tradition and antiquated notions about procreation. Chief Judge Robert M. Bell was among two vigorous dissenters. He equated denying a marriage license on the basis of gender to the prohibition on interracial marriages long ago voided by the Supreme Court."

"Only four of the seven judges, including two who postponed retirements to finish work on the case, could justify denying committed homosexual couples the myriad statutory and financial benefits that come along with marriage. In holding that same-sex marriage is not a fundamental right protected in Maryland or a guarantee of the state's Equal Rights Amendment, the court sounded downright uncomfortable with the status quo. 'Our opinion should by no means be read to imply that the General Assembly may not grant and recognize for homosexual persons civil unions or the right to marry a person of the same sex,' said Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr., writing for those who concluded either such right exists under current law."

"The decision was disappointing in part because courts in other states have gone much further to assert marital benefits, if not necessarily the right to marry. Further, the high court overturned a courageous ruling last year by Baltimore Circuit Judge M Brooke Murdock, who called a 1973 state law limiting marriage to one man and one woman 'an unjustified discrimination based on gender.' Her ruling so outraged anti-gay activists that they launched an unsuccessful drive to impeach her. Such small but vocal minorities make legislating on this issue very difficult. But a progressive state such as Maryland, where voters have affirmed gay rights on referendum, should not falter in taking it on."

"For longer than anyone knows, gay couples have made Maryland their home. They live here, work here and raise their children here. They share communities with single mothers and divorced fathers and longtime heterosexual companions who choose not to marry even if they do have children. Nothing the legislature does is likely to change the patterns of human behavior. But it can ensure that all those who make up the fabric of Maryland are treated as equally as possible by the law." 7

Dan Furmansky of Equality Maryland issued a letter to supporters on 2007-SEP-20:

"What a week. We're all reeling from the terrible feeling of having seven people 'judge' that the provisions of equality in the Maryland Constitution do not apply to those of us who are gay or lesbian. It's painful to be told that we can be legally barred from the fundamental protections that stem from a civil marriage license because we weren't incontrovertibly born gay, can't accidentally impregnate someone or be accidentally impregnated, are too politically powerful, or could just go ahead and marry someone of the opposite sex."

"To me, it feels like the Pocomoke River, Leakin Park, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Sligo Creek Park are less beautiful than they were last week, because they are in a state where we and our children are not valued as equals, deserving of the same right to pursue happiness as all others. It feels confusing, denigrating, and insulting."

"Equality Maryland's staff and boards share your feelings of disbelief and shock. We are taking the time to be angry and sad, but rest assured, we are already moving ahead. As you have likely heard, we will be asking the Maryland General Assembly to pass the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act during their 2008 session. We have ensured this legislation protects religions and their right to refuse to perform weddings with which they disagree. The bill also avoids creating a separate legal classification, i.e., civil unions, for our relationships, which is divisive and exclusionary. It is necessary to begin this dialogue in a position of strength and moral conviction, demanding full legal equality. ..."

"This dialogue about the freedom to marry for same-sex couples isn't about homosexuality. It's about the nature of a just and civil society. It's about examining what justifications people use to treat others differently, stigmatize their children, and deny them basic rights to hospital visitation, inheritance, insurance, social services, social security, family leave, and so much more."

"When the New York Court of Appeals in June of 2006 issued a similar opinion to the one issued by Maryland's high court, gay and lesbian New Yorkers were demoralized. But they picked themselves up, and within one year, they had passed a marriage equality bill out of their Assembly. And just this month, California's legislature again passed a marriage equality bill and sent it to the Governor. Indeed, Equality Maryland staff is meeting today to discuss our legislative strategy, and we will need all of you to be part of that strategy by talking to your legislators, attending next year's Lobby Day, and explaining to your neighbors why legal protections are necessary. We are also in the process of launching a canvassing campaign that will talk to over 150,000 households in Maryland in the next few months. We are not done!"

"We all had hoped there would be an end in sight to what seems like a never-ending struggle to be treated with fairness under the law, and this week, that ending was placed further out of our reach. Still, societal change is happening rapidly, faster than many of us imagined possible, and we will indeed prevail in our quest for justice. It may not happen overnight, but the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act will be the law of the land. Those of you reading this email will be the guiding force behind this crucial legal and social change. Until then, Equality Maryland will continue to ask nothing less than full equality under the law. We must continue to canoe the Pocomoke, bike through Sligo Creek, climb Sugarloaf Mountain, and embrace the beauty, diversity and richness of Maryland - a state with tremendous progressive potential and a growing will by its residents to do right by all citizens." 8

CitizenLink, a publication of Focus on the Family Action -- a fundamentalist Christian group that opposes marriage equality -- stated on 2007-SEP-18:

"Jenny Tyree, associate marriage analyst for Focus on the Family Action, called it a significant decision."

" 'The Maryland court upheld two important ideas: that the marriage laws do not discriminate, and that procreation is a rational basis for the Legislature to protect marriage in the state,' she said. 'It's an especially heartening decision as we see evidence that children do best with a married mom and dad. This decision confirms that marriage is not a legal institution for the purpose of equality; it's a social institution with children at its heart'."

"State Sen. Richard Madaleno has announced he will introduce a bill to allow same-sex 'marriage.' That's why Doug Stiegler, executive director of the Association of Maryland Families, said the state needs a constitutional amendment protecting marriage."

" 'While we are delighted that the court made the ruling,' he said, 'our job is still cut out for us'." 9

References used:

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

  1. The text of HB 48 can be seen at: http://mlis.state.md.us/
  2. The text of SB 262 can be seen at: http://mlis.state.md.us/
  3. The text of SB 690 can be seen at: http://mlis.state.md.us/
  4. "Same-sex marriage in Maryland," Wikipedia, 2007-JAN-18, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  5. Text of "Frank Conaway, et al. v. Gitanjali Deane , et al.," is online at: http://www.equalitymaryland.org/ *
  6. "ACLU and Equality Maryland Denounce 4 to 3 Decision by Maryland High Court Denying Marriage Protections for Same-Sex Couples. Struggle For Fairness Moves to the State Legislature," Press Release, Equality Maryland, 2007-SEP-18, at: http://www.equalitymaryland.org/
  7. "A civil right," Knight Ridder Tribune Business News, 2007-SEP-19, at: http://www.romingerlegal.com/
  8. Dan Furmansky, "We are Not Done," Equality Maryland, 2007-SEP-20, at: http://www.equalitymaryland.org/
  9. Devon Williams, "Maryland High Court Affirms Marriage," CitizenLink, 2007-SEP-18, at: http://www.citizenlink.org/

* This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. 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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