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Quick and Dirty

Lukewarm Victory

By Anna Ditkoff | Posted 3/16/2005

Maryland’s gay-marriage movement has been running as fast as it can this month, just to stay in the same place. Two bills in the state legislature, restating the invalidity of same-sex marriages in Maryland, failed to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 693, sponsored by Del. Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore County), which specified that same-sex marriages issued in other states would not be recognized in Maryland, was shot down by an 11-10 vote on March 3. The next day, members of the committee voted not to act on House Bill 1220, sponsored by 52 of the state’s 141 delegates, which called for an amendment to the constitution defining marriage as being valid only between a man and a woman.

Meanwhile, Anne Arundel Circuit Court Clerk Robert Duckworth and eight state legislators have been petitioning the courts to become defendants in a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that by denying same-sex couples the opportunity to marry, the state is also denying them equal protection under the law. The Circuit Court shot down Duckworth’s petition in September, and on March 11 the Court of Appeals, the state’s high court, upheld that decision. Though his petition to get involved in the suit failed, Duckworth’s actions did significantly delay the ACLU’s case, which was supposed to be heard on March 14. Now the organization must wait for a new trial date to be set, which could be months from now.

Del. Don Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel County) an organizer for Defend Maryland Marriage, a group that holds periodic rallies against same-sex marriage, was a sponsor of the bill to amend Maryland’s marriage law, one of the petitioners in the court case, and one of the 10 members of the House Judiciary Committee to support House Bill 693. He chose not to take City Paper’s call for comment on this story.

Despite the fact that the bills were not passed this session, Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland, an LGBT group working with the ACLU on the court case, offered little enthusiasm for what he says amounts more to an absence of defeat than to victory.

“It’s hard to be optimistic because in so many ways we do feel embattled,” he says. “It’s tiring, to consistently have to defend our right to access the courts or to convince people that putting our rights up for a popular vote isn’t OK, or to give the same arguments over and over again and feel like you’re beating your head against a brick wall. And so, we know that we’re going to be back fighting the same bills next year, praying that those legislators that understand the real issues at stake here end up siding with their convictions as opposed to their fears.”

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