Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Maryland — Back to You, Legislature

By one vote (four to three), Maryland's Court of Appeals said no to same-sex marriage. Rather, they denied a suit brought by 19 homosexual plaintiffs in December challenging the state statute defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Title two of the state law (2-201) on the subject reads simply "Valid Marriages Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this State."

The report in the Baltimore Sun of today's decision includes that the ruling agreed with Assistant Attorney General Robert Zarnoch that any change in the 1973 law had to come from the legislature. This is in keeping with the majority of courts so far where the judges seem terrified of resolving conflicts between equal-rights laws and gender-specific codes.

The case got perking when town clerks around the state refused to issue SS licenses in 2004. Then a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge ruled that doing so violated the state constitution's equal-rights provisions.

The majority opinion author, Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. stopped short of writing that couple had a duty to reproduce. Instead, he couched the decision with:
In declaring that the State's legitimate interests in fostering procreation and encouraging the traditional family structure ... 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.
Interestingly enough, this is the opposite view of those who say this is not the legislature's business, like California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He'd have the courts decide and vetoes marriage-equality laws.

Note: I have not looked into the 244-page decision. There are two detailed dissents, plus one multi-judge concur in part and dissent. With a bit of luck, the Leonard Link will get to this before the rest of us. He has a teaser up now.

The executive director of Equality Maryland, Dan Furmansky, called on the state's General Assembly to act, "to honor Maryland's tradition of tolerance and justice, and to strike down the ban on marriage for same-sex couples."

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Ryan said...

Sadly, I hope Dan Furmansky won't hold his breath. It's sad the courts are abandoning civil rights to the masses.

massmarrier said...

Just so. A lot seemed to have missed their civics lessons. I heard Wee Willy Romney use the activist courts term recently for judges who were doing their jobs (Iowa recently). In contrast, legislators who try to make laws permitting discrimination and inequality supposedly are being democratic.
It's a scary world sometimes.