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February 24, 2010

Same-sex marriage opinion quickly draws fire, praise

The attorney general's opinion has been out just a few hours, but it's already generated strong political reaction, with one delegate even calling for Doug Gansler's impeachment. Here are the basics of the opinion, from a Baltimore Sun story this morning:

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler on Wednesday morning released a long-awaited opinion saying same-sex marriages performed in other states could be recognized by Maryland's legal system.

Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., a Democrat, asked in May asked if such marriages could be recognized. "The answer to that question is clearly 'yes,'" Gansler wrote in a 40-page document.

The opinion does not enable same-sex couples to wed here. It also does not carry the weight of law, but is meant to guide judges and state agencies.

"What we say in this opinion is a prediction, not a prescription" as to how a court would interpret the law, Gansler wrote.

We understand that Del. Don H. Dwyer Jr., an Anne Arundel County Republican, is so dismayed that he's seeking Gansler's impeachment. Other lawmakers say it's now more important than ever for the legislature to decisively weigh in on the matter.

Under state law, a marriage is defined as between a man and a woman, but five states and Washington, D.C., permit them, prompting the debate about how Maryland should treat same-sex unions if a couple moves here.

Del. Emmett Burns called the opinion "political" and confusing. Burns put in a bill, which was defeated earlier this session, that would have essentially negated Gansler's opinion.

But a similar bill by another Baltimore County Democrat, Sen. Norman Stone, is still alive. Stone said this morning that the General Assembly must make clear its position on recognizing same-sex unions.

Stone said he's concerned that with Washington, D.C., set to begin permitting the unions next month, Maryland couples will simply marry there and then continue living here. Stone believes that if people "strongly believe in same-sex marriages, they should go live in those states" that allow it. A hearing on his bill is set for next week.

Meanwhile, supporters of same-sex marriages are again pursuing legislation that would allow those unions to be performed in this state. The bill has broad support, particularly among members of the House Judiciary Committee, which will consider it March 12. But legislative leaders doubt the effort will make it through both chambers.

Many, including Equality Maryland, praised Gansler's opinion. Freedom to Marry also has kind words for Gansler.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a Democrat, said he had not reviewed Gansler's opinion but reiterated his stance that same-sex couples should be permitted civil unions. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, said he personally believes that marriages should be between a man and a woman but said that as a lawyer, he understands the basis of Gansler's opinion.

"I believe the state must give full faith and credit to the laws of our sister states," Miller said.

Burns said he expetcs Maryland voters to one day decide for themselves whether the state should allow same-sex marriages.

"It is going to end up on referendum, and I am going to win," he said.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:29 AM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Families


Thank you, Attorney General Gansler. It's about time Maryland stood up for marriage equality for everyone. Discrimination and bigotry must give way to tolerance and full protection under the law. Marriage is a legal contract administered by states and excluding anyone from its benefits is discrimination, pure and simple. Religious concerns have no place within the context of the legal argument. I urge the MD General Assembly to pass the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act (House Bill 808, Senate Bill 582). Why should my husband and I be allowed to enjoy the legal and societal benefits of marriage - and have no children by choice - while others are denied the same right?

When do I get to vote on YOUR (straight) marriage?

Why dont they call it something else besides marriage for same sex couples then? But has the same benefits essentially?.. the same thing ? But different name?

It was just 43 years ago that the Supreme Court said that it was illegal to ban interracial marriages. If that had been left up to the voting public who knows if or when those marriages would have been allowed.

You cannot put the rights of a minority up to a vote of the majority. That is why the legal system is in place.

Preventing gay marriage hurts people. Allowing it does not.

Pretty simple stuff.

Michael E. Busch said "I believe the state must give full faith and credit to the laws of our sister states"

AGREED Mr Busch. Now recognize my legally issued CCW permit in the state in which I live!

Or am I still going to be treated as a second class citizen and continue to face discrimination by the State?

(From Julie: Miller said this, not Busch.)

Maria Allwine says "Discrimination and bigotry must give way to tolerance"

Will you 'tolerate' those who disagree with this opinion as you demand of others?

Burns and Stone should go live in Uganda, if they can't fathom "all [men] are created EQUAL."

Fr. Raymond
Superior (retired)
Community of the Resurrection
San Diego CA USA

Gordon writes "Why dont they call it something else besides marriage for same sex couples then? But has the same benefits essentially?.. the same thing ? But different name?"

I think most gay people would be fine with that, if it were possible. However, the word "marriage" is not a religious term (holy matrimony is), but instead it is a secular legal term. Churches don't own the use of this term.

The way the concept of secular marriage is intertwined in myriad federal and state laws makes it impossible to give same-sex couples all of the rights: as soon as a different term is used, it bestows second-class rights.

Ah excuse me Ms. Melanie but any time ANY law is passed the majority who are in favor of that law are imposing their will on the minority who oppose it. A little concept called Democracy.

When you think about it, Gansler's ruling can go no other way.
My spouse and I are married and live in Vt. Now we move to Maryland.
We have an adopted child for whom Vt recognizes both of us as legal parents. Whose child does that become in Maryland?
We own cars and a boat jointly -- whose are they now?
We bought furniture jointly as well in anticipation of our move -- whose furniture does this become?
Who sits at the Maryland line, splitting ownership and deciding custody?
No, our Federal system only works when one state recognizes another's laws. That's all this ruling does.


I will "tolerate" your bigotry; just keep it inside your small mind and out of my civil rights. Lord knows there remain many racial bigots in America, long after the 1964 Civil Rights Act.. It's a free country -- you're entitled to think whatever you want of me, of my sexuality, of my right to marriage equality. That's as far as your bigotry goes, though. The law trumps samll minds.

A point of clarification, Mike:

The civil rights of a minority should *never* be put to referendum. I believe that was Melanie's point. "Democracy" is not always a good thing. That's why we have an independent judiciary: to protect minorities from "democracy."

Yes, church and state are separate but you can not ignore the voice of the people and their respective religious views. This past Pres. Election spoke volumes when Proposition 8. in California was denied after being openly voted on by the people. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn't “Cali” one of the most liberal states in the U.S.?
Above all, marriage is a legal union that was and is still built on the foundation as a sacred entity between a man and a woman.

Most amazing is that even when a haterosexual ACKNOWLEDGES that the law is really quite clear on matters of equal protection, so many of them still present themselves as willing to overlook constitutional law when it comes to their gay children., instead choosing to lurk about the country carving their gay offspring out of the constitution.

Morality indeed, heterosexuals.



Perhaps follow the Constitution before you start spouting off about morality, no?

And if you prefer to live in a place where your personal religious views are binding law, might I suggest Iraq?

From BankStreet is EXACTLY as I suspected from those demanding tolerance of others.

They are the LAST to give what they themselves demand.

The "bigotry" word is gone the way of the race card. It has been used so often, many times without cause, it has lost its meaning.

It is very telling though that those screaming the loudest about discrimination and bigotry are THE biggest bigots and would discriminate against others for the simple reason that someone else has a different view.

And we have all been told about the progressive liberal big tolerant tent.

It is proving to be a huge LIE!

All of you hateful bigots our there should NOT worry one bit - my "gay marriage" WON'T RUIN your "straight divorce"!

Amen Doug Gansler. I think the comparison to interracial marriage is exactly right; there is no basis for denying same sex couples the right to marry other than base bigotry. Would be nice to see a little leadership on this out of our governor.

Even heterosexual marriages were voted on at some point, just very, very differently. Many times, it's the opinions and the culture surrounding the people getting married and not necessarily the

Years ago there were rules prohibiting some heterosexual marriages--almost all of them dating back to the eugenics era of this country. There were laws prohibiting interracial marriage, and perhaps others (I am not going to put myself on the line here) prohibiting certain 'groups' from intermarrying each other. Luckily heterosexual 'marriage' is defined legally as any man to any woman, regardless of ethnicity, class, ability, religion, social status, or occupation. And also luckily, both partners have a choice in this country of who they marry. (Many places around the world still practice arranged marriage, done on the "good of the family" and/or the religion.)

Civil unions and heterosexual marriages are the same on a legal basis, so why not allow them. Also, civil unions don't necessarily have to be for same-sex couples only. I think it would get a lot more support if people realized it would be a way for best friends (or relatives) to gain additional legal ability (especially visitation rights, taxes, reduced healthcare costs, etc.) to avoid having to find another spouse after a failed relationship. (Many types of insurances give exclusive benefits to married (or legally tied) partners over single ones.)

It's up to the religious institutions to decide whether their priests, rabbis, etc., will perform wedding ceremonies for same sex couples. (The religious ceremonies of "marriage" so dear to everybody.)

A pure political opinion. Forget the Full Faith and Credit smokescreen. Maryland doesn't give full faith and credit to other states' tax, alcohol or gun registry laws...why start with this ?
This is pure political posturing so Mr. Gansler can become Governor Gansler or Senator Gansler.

One of the premises of democracy is that the laws enacted by the people are for the benefit of the majority. But any given choice (such as disallowing same-sex marriage) is not "beneficial" for the majority simply because the people in that majority prefer that choice. "Beneficial" and "palatable" are two different things, as we have seen over and over again throughout history (i.e. the pre-Civil War southern states and the civil rights struggles of the 60's). Democracy does not mean that the majority get to oppress the minority because they choose to, absent any valid justification. A valid justification requires a solid logical basis. A solid logical basis, in turn, requires balancing the types of preferences and choices that are valid in a policy debate. A valid preference (made up, for the sake of argument here) would be "I oppose same-sex marriage because studies conclusively show that it leads to higher rates of heterosexual divorce." (Again, I just made this up. I don't know any study that shows this.) An invalid preference would be "I oppose same-sex marriage because I don't feel comfortable around gays." The difference is that the latter fails to account for the benefits of same-sex marriage for those who are SUBSTANTIVELY affected (i.e. whose personal choices will be limited by the policy preventing same-sex marriage). We don't have to like every law, or every person, and we don't have to associate with everyone. But we have a democratic responsibility to enact laws that protect the freedoms of everyone, regardless of how we feel about them, just as everyone else has a duty to protect OUR freedoms regardless of how they feel about us. This is how we protect the democratic process, and ensure that, when "they" (whoever "they" might be) are the majority and "we" are the minority, our rights will still be protected. We are slowly arriving at these conclusions because our constitutional beliefs require it. Same-sex marriage will be a reality in this country sooner or later. "Tolerance" is irrelevant because everyone is intolerant of opinions with which he does not agree. But the duty to protect others' rights is not an option. Because same sex marriage does not harm heterosexuals more than it benefits homosexuals, there is no other option than to allow same sex marriage. Burns and anyone else opposed to the equality inherent in same sex marriage are abdicating their democratic duty by putting their personal preferences above their responsibility to protect those they represent and control by legislative means. Emmet Burns is, in fact, the antithesis of democracy.

I am not a hateful bigot. If people do not agree with you, stop being childish and label them with names. I am for civil unions with all rights under our constitution. I am not for same-sex "marriages" as most advocates insist on calling it. I also believe official should refrain from adopting positions that go against the will of the people. Put it to a vote.

"No, our Federal system only works when one state recognizes another's laws. That's all this ruling does."

Doe that mean that Marijuana is legal in Maryland?

WHY CAN'T WE ALL GET ALONG? How does equal rights harm you? Thank about it. Why is it alright to push your believes on others. The constitution was written to protect all Americans. The law is the law. Help us to understand the law......

someone still needs to explain to me how allowing same sex marriage in any reduces the sanctity of man-woman marriages. If one person's marriage can mess withe sanctity of another person's marriage, we are already in deep deep trouble.

Norman Stone believes that if people "strongly believe in same-sex marriages, they should go live in those states" that allow it.

Maybe Norman Stone should go live in state than already has discrimination written into their Constitution.

If you want to look at the unintended consequences of granting full faith and credit to foreign same sex marriages one needs only to look our southern neighbor Virginia. I give you the recent case where a Virgina resident has been ordered by a Vermont court to surrender her daughter to her ex-wife who is a Vermont resident. The legal custodian/ the ex spouse is not the biological mother of this five years old child. The child was never adopted by the former spouse because under Vermont law a child born during a marriage is presumed to be the child of the mother's spouse. This presumptions of heterosexual marriages applied to homosexual unions in the State and thus the potential situation where a non-biological parent who had not adopted a child ended up with full custody of the child. To say this is a mess is to understate. Think of all the step parents that divorce that are not allowed to have this result-no biology and no adoption=no custody-period; yet under identical circumstances the homosexual couple has the potential for a result formerly reserved for people where the child has a biological or legal connection to both spouses.
Marriage legally means more than the ability to sit at a person's bedside or transfer property effortlessly after a spouse’s death. Part of it has to do with certain presumptions like the presumption that a child born during a marriage is the child of the wife's spouse. That presumption makes no sense in the case of homosexuals.
I have not read the Attorney General's Advisory Opinion on this subject, but the many issues that are inextricably connected to the characterization of a relationship as being between married people is something I hope he covered in DETAIL in his opinion. Without this kind of detail the opinion is not only merely wrong on moral grounds but is an opening of a Pandora's box that the State will have to deal with for many years to come.

Honestly I don't know where this is going... Why does this keep coming up? It won't pass a referendum...the majority of people in MD and the US don't want Gay why do these state officials keep trying to sneak it in??

Regardless of what is posted before or after mine...the fact remains that majority rules.. Hollywood and Liberal America will not win in trying to squash the values of people in this country. And for God's sake, don't confuse gay rights with Civil rights...2 different things. Like transgendered 7th grade boys using the GIRL's Bathroom, Gay Boy Scout leaders, Gay men adopting boys.. WRONG IS WRONG... UN NATURAL IS UN NATURAL. Y'all keep operating like God doesn't exist.. just keep on....

No one hates homosexuals...but maybe I don't want to watch 2 men making out at Olive Garden...and don't dare compare it to interracial couples..TOTALLY DIFFERENT. Maybe I don't want to explain to my 5 year old son why his teacher is married to a man? And is it just me or are we just letting a gender confusion of the youth just HAPPEN?? Isn't it cool now to be a bi-sexual woman.. "look I kissed a girl" Sad..


We do not live in a democracy, people. We live in a Constitutional Republic.
In the interest of personal liberty, our constitutions, state and federal, seek to protect the rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority.

Equality under the law, promised by the founders of this nation, has been a long time coming, and still has a way to go, but the principle is the foundation of our legal system.

Human rights should NEVER be put up for a vote of the majority. Unfettered democracy is just another form of tyranny.

I agree with the Guru...unnatural is unnatural...OUTLAW POLYESTER!!!

We should pass legislation at the Federal and State level for anyone to name a person they choose to receive the same benefits that marriage would give. Real equality.

Behavioral issues shouldn't be equated with civil rights just for the purpose of "acceptance".

Let anyone's good or bad behavior stand on it's own merit.

There should be NO stones thrown, not a one!!!

congrats MD for taking one of many steps towards equality.

I lived for 25 years in states that allow marriage equality, fought for it, lobbied for it, attended fundraisers and campaigned for politicians that believe in equality for all citizens. I moved to MD knowing full well that if I were to marry my long time partner it would not be recognized... Yet.....but I still moved here, because it is my right to live the way I want to live, it is my human right to not be limited in the places I can go, It is my right to make a living in a fair and just world, it is my right to seek an education. I'm invoking my rights by moving to MD. By living the life I live. I am not harming anyone. in fact, my education here will hopefully one day make it possible for me to make an impact in the world of International health.

The arguments against marriage equality, are valid only for those who hate, those who do not understand and those who are ignorant to what the LGBT community wants. Marriage in this day and age is more than just a religious action. Marriage in the US has many none religious benefits, Tax rights, inheritance rights, social security rights, medical insurance rights. Most gay people will not seek out to be married by people that do not understand or "hate" them. They want to be accepted, to raise their families without fear, but with recognition that they are worth no less than their straight neighbors. the fight for marriage equality is just like the fight for interracial marriage. It is the union of 2 people that love each other, but are not understood by the majority.

It is the expectation that the government will protect all its citizens. Majority and minority alike. in that the Majority should not be voting for a minorities rights. The using a different term for marriage is not what we are looking for as for the most part, separate but equal is rarely equal at all.

By recognizing the valid marriages from other states, MD is taking one step towards allowing equality for all it's citizens. Again I praise you MD for taking this step. Do not get defeated by all the ignorant backlash. Equality will come in it's own time. For now you are taking the first steps to do what is right, what is lawful, and what is Human

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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