Maryland's law to allow same-sex couples to legally marry in isn't about religion or partisan politics. It is about civil rights.

As it stands, the law grants same-sex couples the same special rights that are currently afforded to married men and women.

Without the law, the sudden death of a partner without a will leaves the surviving partner without recourse or claim to ownership of assets. A person in a committed same-sex relationship has no rights if a partner suffers major injury and is hospitalized. No right to visitation. No right to helping determine the level of care for a partner who can't make that decision.

The word marriage seems to be a sticking point for many who oppose the law, instead preferring the term civil unions, particularly those who believe marriage is defined by God. However, marriage, in the eyes of the state, is a legal contract. Nothing more, nothing less.

Currently, marriage between a man and a woman does not need to occur inside a church or by a clergyman to be legal. Besides, the legislation specifically states that no religious institution will be forced to perform a marriage service between same-sex couples. As it stands, churches aren't required to perform marriage services for traditional man-woman couples.

A handful of Republicans crossed party lines in order to get legislation passed in this year's session.

One of those was Carroll Republican Sen. Allan Kittleman, who has long been an advocate of civil rights. He tried to get Republican support for a bill to legalize civil unions regardless of sexuality in the 2011 session. In support of this year's bill, he spoke about his father's involvement in the civil rights movement and his parents hosting NAACP meetings at their home.

The Republican Party, he said, stands for both freedom economically and personally. Equal civil rights, he said, is a Republican principle.

No matter your political party or religious beliefs, voting in favor of Question 6, the Civil Marriage Protection Act, is the right thing to do.

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