The latter can make all the difference when it comes to health issues.

"Not until Lisa was pregnant did we decide to do living wills and power of attorney," says Deane. "We were so worried that if something happened to one of us, the other would not have access."

They had reason to worry.

"When I was giving birth to one of our daughters, the anesthesiologist asked Lisa to leave the room," Deane said. "He would have none of it. And a pediatrician told me I couldn't bring in Lisa's child because I was not recognized as the legal parent. Who runs around with legal documents? That's insane."

As Carpenter points out, "Marriage has a legal and an emotional component. Most people don't look at it as strictly a legal matter. Having a marriage license is extra helpful legally for gay couples," he adds.

Jonathan Blumenthal and Eric Cohen decided they had waited long enough. Now in their early 40s, the Silver Spring couple started contemplating marriage not long after they met 11 years ago, long before the effort to gain legalization in Maryland.

"We were looking into having a commitment ceremony. We wanted to have it in front of family and friends. We even found a venue," says Blumenthal, a federal government worker who co-founded with Cohen the Burgundy Crescent Volunteers, which coordinates LGBT volunteers for gay and gay-friendly nonprofit groups in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

"But then we decided, why not wait for marriage in Maryland? It seemed possible that it would soon be legal, and we felt it would be silly to do a ceremony twice. So we waited," says Blumenthal. "But we had to wait longer than we thought. When we saw that Maryland didn't get it this year, we started thinking about New York."

While the marriage bill was heading to defeat in Maryland, the effort to gain same-sex marriage rights in New York was in full swing.

"I was up there with Eric when the vote was taken. That's when we definitely decided to get married. New York is the second-best choice. We really wanted to do this in the state we live in."

Kaplan and Pearson attended a gay wedding in Washington last year right after the legalization. "It was fabulous," Kaplan says. "I love going to weddings. But there is so much love to be shared in this state."

Kaplan is particularly anxious about getting the opportunity to do some of that sharing because his father has cancer. That's the only reason he and Pearson may eventually decide to opt for D.C. before the next legislative session in Annapolis takes up a marriage bill. Meanwhile, the couple plans to do some lobbying when that session gets under way, just as they did this year, hoping to change some minds.

The opposition from religious conservatives, who provided the votes to kill the bill, is not likely to melt easily.

"I would remind them that there is a separation of church and state," Kaplan says. "When a couple gets married, there is a civil license. Different religions can believe very different things, but each one is entitled to give a civil license. No one objects to that, even though they may disagree with other religions. We want people to understand that this country was founded for freedom of religion. When you step outside of your church, you're a Marylander. Jon and Joel getting married isn't going to hurt anything."

Polyak and Deane will be lobbying again, too.

Despite the likelihood of an uphill struggle, Polyak feels optimistic about the chances in Maryland for same-sex marriage rights. "It's inevitable and it's imminent."

Wojahn agrees.

"There is a new hope for us next year," he says. "There will be a full push from a coalition of mostly Maryland-based groups. And the vote in New York will help us. The more marriage equality becomes accepted around the country, the more people will realize that the sky isn't going to fall. It's a matter of simple equality. It's not right to have to go to another state to get legal recognition."

tim.smith@baltsun.com