On Jan 16, Maryland Delegate Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore County) introduced House Bill 90, a bill that would ban recognizing out-of –state marriages for gay and lesbian couples in Maryland. If this bill were to pass, it would affect many LGBT couples, especially those in neighboring Washington D.C., who will be allowed to legally marry on March 2nd.
Maryland law has defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman since 1973. The state recognizes marriages performed in other jurisdictions according to the "full faith and credit" clause of the U.S. Constitution, but current marriage law does not address recognition of same-sex marriages.
The federal Defense of Marriage Act, enacted into law in 1996, allows states to decide whether to recognize same-sex marriages.
"The issue is knocking on our doors," Burns said. "People will be flying over here, wanting to force us to accept their marriage licenses."
"Our back door is open, and it needs to be closed."
The article also discussed that Burns introduced this bill despite the Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler saying that he would make a decision on this matter:
Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery, asked Gansler to issue an opinion on the matter last May. Gansler will interpret existing Maryland law on marriage recognition to arrive at his opinion. The opinion will also take into consideration legal precedent set nationwide, including that of the Proposition 8 trial currently being argued in California.
"There has been a lot of movement on this issue," said Raquel Guillory, spokeswoman for the attorney general. "That's why we've been very methodical in drafting this opinion."
Guillory could not give a timetable for the decision, but said it would be made this year. She said Burns' bill would have no bearing on Gansler's opinion unless it passed before the opinion was issued.
The bill hits close to home for Delegate Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, who married her partner in 2008 in a civil ceremony in California. (They had their formal marriage ceremony in 2005.) The marriage is still considered legal in that state, in the district and in six other states, but not in Maryland.
A hearing about House Bill 90 will take place at the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, January 28th, 2009 at 1 PM in Room 100 in the Lowe Office Building located at 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, Maryland.
Equality Maryland is asking for LGBT advocates in their state to show opposition to this bill by testifying at the hearing or providing moral support by just showing up.
The Attorney General's office is currently considering an official opinion as to whether Maryland should honor legal out of state same-sex marriages. This bill would prevent the enforcement of a positive opinion, thereby creating yet another area of law in which we are discriminated against.
We hope that you will join us for the hearing next week! We cannot allow this bill or any other piece of legislation to invalidate the commitment of hundreds of Maryland couples! Please, plan to join us for this important hearing.
To RSVP with Equality Maryland, click here.
GLAAD will continue to monitor this story and provide updates.