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Summer for Marriage Looking Brighter for All Families

Susan Goering,
ACLU of Maryland
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July 23, 2010

The tide is turning toward equality and fairness for all families in Maryland. A recent poll shows that a majority of Marylanders support granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The arc of history continues to bend towards justice. Yet the National Organization for Marriage, or NOM, this week came to town to say “No.” They believe the legal partnership should only be for heterosexual couples and want to forever deny needed protections for same-sex couples and their children.

Thankfully, history, and growing public opinion in the Free State, is not on their side. And Maryland must keep saying “Yes.”

It’s just a matter of time before the right to marry will be extended to gay and lesbian couples, here in Maryland and throughout the country. Two terrific decisions issued by a federal court judge earlier this month are a strong signal of our progress. The rulings struck down a portion of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, on the grounds that, by deferring to states’ varied definitions of marriage except where they allow same-sex couples to marry, it violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause and interferes with states’ rights.

The other case working its way through the courts is the lawsuit challenging Prop 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that overturned same-sex marriage in California. A ruling for plaintiffs in this case would require California, and, depending on the court’s reasoning, possibly other states, to marry same-sex couples.

Other countries, too, are moving towards equality and fairness. Just this week, Argentina’s President signed a bill granting same-sex couples the ability to marry, making it the first country in Latin America to take this step, and the tenth country in the world.

This year has seen significant progress towards fairness in Maryland. Attorney General Doug Gansler released a legal opinion stating that valid marriages of same-sex couples from other states may and should be honored here at home. That opinion relies on longstanding legal precedent that says couples who have been legally married in another state are treated as married under state law.

The legal opinion also is in step with recent public policy in Maryland, which has been consistently supporting increased legal protections for same-sex couples and their families. And this spring, the state Department of Budget and Management decided to make same-sex couples with valid marriages from others states automatically eligible for the Employee and Retiree Health and Welfare Benefits Program.

Allowing same-sex couples to marry will eventually be understood as fair and just, and not as a threat to marriage. Indeed, the legal protections that come with a marriage license are the legal underpinnings of strong families, providing the security, peace of mind, and dignity that every family needs and deserves.

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