Try digitalPLUS for 10 days for only $0.99

Editorial

News Opinion Editorial

Another boost for same-sex marriage

How ironic that a divorce will be remembered for strengthening the rights of all Marylanders to be married regardless of sexual orientation.

With its slam-dunk 7-0 opinion issued Friday in the matter of two women seeking a divorce, the Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that Maryland must recognize same-sex marriages legally certified elsewhere. It's a huge victory for the ongoing efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland and adds a whole new dimension to this fall's referendum.

Instead of deciding whether same-sex marriages should be legal in Maryland, voters will effectively be choosing only whether such ceremonies are conducted within the state or in the nearby District of Columbia — or some other jurisdictions where they have already been legalized. In either case, it appears same-sex marriages are here to stay.

It's also a noteworthy validation for Maryland Attorney GeneralDouglas F. Gansler, who was roundly condemned by conservative lawmakers for issuing an opinion two years ago that came to the very same conclusion as the high court. Indeed, the court's opinion follows the same line of reasoning as the attorney general — that out-of-state same-sex marriages must be recognized as valid even in a state where marriage was previously defined as being between a man and a woman.

At the heart of the matter is a legal doctrine of comity — or legal reciprocity. Maryland has long recognized out-of-state marriages despite differing standards of states. For instance, some states have common-law marriages, unions created by cohabitation and agreement rather than ceremony, and Maryland has long recognized them even though Maryland has no common-law marriage statute.

Since Maryland law does not expressly prohibit the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages (and the legislature has repeatedly rejected efforts to do just that over the years), the only matter at issue was whether same-sex marriages might be legally "repugnant" to public policy. It isn't because, as Judge Glenn T. Harrell notes in the opinion he wrote on behalf of the full court, Maryland has actually adopted multiple provisions to protect the rights of same-sex couples in matters ranging from employment to public accommodations and housing.

Unfortunately, the ruling does not mean the court will revisit its 2007 decision in which a majority of the judges rejected same-sex marriage — specifically overturning a city circuit court judge's decision that found denying same-sex couples the right of civil marriages was unconstitutional. That decision may yet be challenged at some future date (if only because of several retirements and new appointments in the court in the interim) should this fall's expected referendum turn out badly.

Nevertheless, the decision would seem to boost the chances that voters will approve the same-sex marriage law Gov.Martin O'Malleyproposed and the General Assembly passed earlier this year. One can argue that voting against the law now guarantees only that the legal ceremonies will be conducted elsewhere — and the state will be deprived the financial benefits as couples hold ceremonies (and perhaps receptions and hotel stays) elsewhere.

That economic boost is not insignificant. One study conducted last year estimated that same-sex weddings in Iowa alone generated $12 million in economic activity.

Still, that's a minor consideration compared to the need for Maryland to protect the legal rights of all its citizens. Banning same-sex marriage denies certain legal benefits to couples and their children in matters ranging from health insurance, property rights, custody and inheritance that are patently unfair and clearly not in the broader public interest.

No doubt Jessica Port and Virginia Anne Cowan, the two women who married in California in 2008 and filed for divorce inPrince George's County, did not expect to be Maryland civil rights figures, but social progress can sometimes take an unexpected path.

Now it's up to voters to further advance the cause of civil rights and approve same-sex marriage — potentially becoming the first state in the nation to do so at the ballot box. Recent polls have shown the measure will be close, but President Barack Obama's recent announcement that he personally supports same-sex marriage, as well as the court's welcome decision to recognize out-of-state same-sex unions, gives momentum to the cause.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • The 'war for gay rights' has no winners or losers

    The 'war for gay rights' has no winners or losers

    Columnist Jonah Goldberg's recent commentary about Indiana's Religious Freedom and Restoration Act missed the point ("How do 'religious freedom' acts encourage discrimination?" April 3).

  • Religious freedom and the Constitution

    Religious freedom and the Constitution

    What many people forget is that the framers of our Constitution, through the First Amendment, sought to guarantee both freedom of religion and freedom from religion ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof").

  • The struggle for gay rights isn't over

    The struggle for gay rights isn't over

    The reasoning behind the "righteous outrage" that commentator Jonah Goldberg uses to describe "know-nothings of every stripe" who are serious about protecting civil rights is twisted at best ("How do 'religious freedom' acts encourage discrimination?" April 3.)

  • Selective reading of Leviticus won't justify bigotry

    Selective reading of Leviticus won't justify bigotry

    Letter writer Adam Goldfinger objected to Eddie Zipperer's references to Leviticus and states that he does indeed try to follow the laws in this book ("Yes, some people do follow the bible to the letter," April 3). I find myself wondering how many people Mr. Goldfinger has personally stoned to...

  • Yes, some people do follow the Bible to the letter

    Yes, some people do follow the Bible to the letter

    In his recent column ("The conservative case for same-sex marriage," March 29), Eddie Zipperer gives three reasons why conservatives should favor same sex marriage. I find his second, poking fun at the Bible, to be both offensive and ignorant.

  • Indiana learns discrimination is bad business

    Indiana learns discrimination is bad business

    The leaders of large corporations have not generally been at the vanguard of civil rights movements in this country. The average CEO is usually more concerned about stock valuations and quarterly dividends than about fighting discrimination. And when was the last time you saw the money-hungry NCAA...

  • Marriage equality can't wait

    Marriage equality can't wait

    In 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws banning interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia, there was not a single dissent. Never mind that Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute had been in the books since 1924. The justices unanimously found discrimination in the institution of marriage...

  • Religious beliefs can't excuse discrimination

    Religious beliefs can't excuse discrimination

    A recent suggestion that some people should be exempt from serving gays because of their religious beliefs is nonsense. If you are licensed to provide a service or employed by the government to do so, you are required to perform that service without unlawful discrimination. Neither government employment...

Comments
Loading

73°