Monday, December 04, 2006

Big Words, High Passion in Maryland

Today, marriage-equality forces square off against regressive government in Maryland. Its highest court, the Court of Appeals, hears arguments in Conaway v. Deane and Polyak.

References: All pertinent documents and the history on the case appear on Equality Maryland's page on the case.

The judges, legislators and voters alike have no doubt who's on what team. In particular, the anti-gay legislators are very plain about their willingness to hold down homosexual couples.

For example, one strident foe of marriage equality is Delegate Donald H. Dwyer Jr. , a Republican from Anne Arundel. He's sort of their Emile Goguen and has unsuccessfully tried three times to get the legislature to pass a ban on SSM. He'll try this coming session. As he not so subtly put it to the Washington Post, "If the state of Maryland legalizes same-sex marriage, there will be nothing to prevent it from being taught in the public schools as a normal sexual lifestyle."

In January, a Baltim0re Circuit Court justice, M. Brooke Murdock, agreed with 19 plaintiffs that limiting marriage licenses to one man and one woman was discriminatory. He suggested that this was unconstitutional.

According to an analytical article in the Baltimore Sun, everyone is wary of this fight. McDaniel College political science professor Herbert C. Smith uses the third-rail allusion. "It will be a political issue at the extremes, and the moderate cores of both parties would like it to go away. It's an issue that has costs."

Stirring the pot are money and bodies from pro-SSM and anti-SSM forces outside and inside the state. Both sides and observers seem to agree that whatever this court decides won't end the matter. The anti-forces vow to fight in the legislature for a DOMA-style amendment. Similarly a New Jersey style mush-mouth ruling -- SSM, just don't call it marriage -- won't satisfy the marriage-equality side.

The Post cites figures from the local Advocates for Children and Youth that Maryland has over 15,000 same-sex couples. Whether anti-SSM folk can continue to look away and hum little distracted songs when acting to discriminate against both homosexual couples and their kids remains to be seen. The emotional factors in this case are understandably high.

The extra wrinkle in this case is the regressive governor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. He vetoed both a 2001 law banning sexual-orientation based discrimination and a life partnership law that would provide such benefits as medical decision making for SS couples. He claimed the laws undermined "the sanctity of traditional marriage."

So, in Maryland, the forces are lined up opposite each other. If the high court rules for marriage equality, even in a spongy format, the fight moves to the legislature. If it rules against equality, ahem, the fight moves to the legislature. It looks long and nasty, but SSM still has a good shot there.

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Ryan said...

Wow, that Gov was a schmuck.

Let's hope the pro-SSM side gives em hell today, during the hearing. More and more states are going to start legalizing gay marriage. I really think a tipping point is near, at least for land in the Blue States.

Rich Madaleno said...

Thanks for the interesting post. I would like to add a few important clarifications about the wrinkles caused by our governor. First, our sexual orientation anti-discrimination law was signed into effect in 2001 by then-Gov. Parris Glendening, a Democrat who championed the measure. In 2005, Gov. Bob Ehrlich vetoed a life parntership bill and a property tax fairness bill. He signed a hate crimes bill and safe schools bill (both of which included sexual orientation and gender identity). He was a vocal opponent of marriage equality and supported efforts to amend our constitution. In November, he lost his bi for re-election to Martin O'Malley, the current Mayor of Baltimore and a supporter of the legal recognition of same gender couples.

massmarrier said...

Great...and important adds. Thanks, Rich.

I confess I was rushed on that and went with the sources I could find. I have some chums and family I Maryland I intend to check with soon.