Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Maryland Court Rejects Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

A divided Maryland Court of Appeals ruled yesterday against eight same-sex couples and a gay widow who sought the right to marry in their state. The court, in a 4-3 decision, upheld Maryland law which maintains marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. It added current law does not deny gay and lesbian couples their Constitutional rights through the denial of marriage.

The decision overturns Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock's January 2006 ruling which found the marriage ban for gay and lesbian couples unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals ruling, which obviously came as a shock to those who sought marriage in their state, remains part of a much more broad trend that indicates judicial strategies to secure full marriage for same-sex couples by and large have failed. Massachusetts remains the only state where gay and lesbian nuptials came about through a direct judicial mandate and that ruling sparked a widespread backlash that stung the movement for LGBT rights to the core during the 2004 presidential election.

Fast forward nearly four years and the situation has certainly evolved. Connecticut's civil unions law took effect in October 2005. New Hampshire lawmakers passed a nearly identical bill earlier this year which is slated to take effect in January. Senator Hillary Clinton [D-N.Y.] and other Democratic White House hopefuls have expressed support for civil unions -- or even marriage for same-sex couples in a handful of cases. Lawmakers in California, Vermont and a handful of other states, such as New York, have debated the marriage question in various forms over the last few months. Same-sex couples should certainly have the right to marry if they choose. The movement for LGBT rights arguably has a responsibility recognize the current political and judicial climate which exists in most states if it hopes to secure tangible advances on this issue. It also must manage expectations among those who tirelessly devote their time and energy to expand marriage rights in this country. Nothing happens within the bubble that often is the movement for LGBT rights. Judicial defeats, such as that which took place yesterday in Maryland, are certainly no exception.

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