Thursday, January 28, 2010

Maryland House Judiciary Committee holds hearing on bill to bar recognition of out-of-state, same-sex marriages

Maryland Delegate Emmett Burns recently re-introduced legislation (HB 90) to bar recognition of out-of-state, same-sex marriages. Burns seeks to preempt an anticipated opinion by state Attorney General Douglas Gansler on the legal status of these marriage, if - as widely expected - Gansler finds that Maryland law requires the state to recognize them. Among other concerns, Burns worries that Gansler's opinion could encourage Maryland same-sex couples to marry in D.C..

Today the state House Judiciary Committee held a "packed" hearing on HB 90. The Baltimore Sun reports that "Burns, an African-American pastor, spent much of his testimony drawing distinctions between the civil rights movement he participated in and the gay marriage movement he opposes." One alleged distinction is that he could not have been a legislator during the segregation era, but that a closeted gay man could have.

Barnes claimed that recognizing same-sex marriages in other states represents "bad policy." But Susan Sommer, a Lambda Legal attorney, replied that New York "has not tumbled," even though it now recognizes out-of-state marriages by same-sex couples. And "[i]t has meant that people do not have to check their marriages when they cross state lines."

According to, ACLU attorney David Rocah testified on Maryland's "default rule." "It has been the default rule in Maryland to treat valid out-of-state marriages as valid in Maryland," Rocah said. "People who are married in one state should not be suddenly treated as unmarried because they move across state lines." That is just the reason why Delegate Don Dwyer thinks HB 90 should be enacted. But Delegate Heather Mizeur said that although she married her wife in California in 2008, Maryland law does not recognize her marriage. "In Cambridge, Maryland, we are two unrelated women with some very expensive legal documents and a lot of uncertainty."

The Daily Record also reports on the hearing, and so does WBALTV.

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