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Maryland Supreme Court: no marriage equality

We've been waiting for this decision for some time now, and it's not in favor of the nine plaintiffs who filed to establish that gays and lesbians have a right to marry. The court decided to uphold state law that bars same-sex marriage.

An attorney who sent me the link to the PDF of the ruling said “I don't like the majority opinion but it is very well documented, is worthy of respect, not a “redneck” opinion at all.” One of the arguments in favor of traditional marriage:

We are unwilling to hold that a right to same-sex marriage has taken hold to the point that it is implicit in the concept of ordered liberty or deeply rooted in the history and tradition of Maryland. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. at 721, 117 S. Ct. at 2268, 138 L. Ed. 2d 772. Even a quick glance at the laws of Maryland indicate that this State has long regarded marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The consanguinity statute, for example, addresses only those marriages w ith a certain degree of blood relation as between members of the opposite sex.  Family Law § 2-202. The statutory scheme regulating dealings between spouses refers to the parties in terms of a “married w oman” and “her husband.”  Family Law §§ 4-201 to 4-205.  Family Law § 4-301, furthermore, involves liabilities for, and protection from, the obligations of a spouse.  The statute addresses only those liabilities as between “husband” and “wife.”

These are only a few of the examples of Maryland family law statutes that recognize sex-specific language when referring to the marital relationship.  The point is that despite the long-established presence of Family Law § 2-201, the laws of our State historically, and continue to, employ sex-specific language that reflects Maryland’s adherence to the traditional understanding of marriage as between a man and woman.

The court basically ruled that the legislature could enact civil unions to address the inequity. More after the jump.

In declaring that the State’s legitimate interests in fostering procreation and encouraging the traditional family structure in which children are born are related reasonably to the means employed by Family Law § 2-201, 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. 

Loving v. Virginia was brought up:

To be sure, there are important differences between the African American experience and that of gay men and lesbians in th is country, yet many of the arguments made in support of the antimiscegenation laws were identical to those made today in opposition to same-sex marriage and, as in Loving, their goal is to restrict the right of an individual to marry the person of his or her choice. Consequently, the reasoning of Loving requires rejection of the petitioners' argument. Hernandez, 855 N. E. 2d at 24-25, 26,  (Kaye, C.J., dissenting) (citing and quoting Brief of NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., as amicus curiae in support of plaintiffs).

It's a long slog (244 pp), so there's a lot of reading needed to decipher this ruling. (365gay):

Equality Maryland said it was surprised by the high court ruling, given judgments in Massachusetts and New Jersey where courts have ruled same-sex couples must be accorded the same rights as opposite-sex couples.

“We will be pushing for full, legal equality in the Maryland General Assembly,” Equality Maryland executive director Dan Furmansky told the Washington Post after the ruling was released.

“This is a social justice struggle. Eventually, Maryland will have civil marriage equality for same-sex couples. It's inevitable.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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