ANNAPOLIS – On the heels of a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court supporting same-sex marriage, Maryland Delegate Emmett Burns introduced legislation Thursday to assure his state would not recognize gay marriages valid elsewhere.
The debate over same-sex marriages reached a peak Wednesday when President Bush responded to the Massachusetts ruling by endorsing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Maryland lawmakers are one step ahead – Delegate Charles Boutin, R-Harford, introduced a similar amendment to the Maryland Constitution earlier this session.
Boutin’s amendment would limit the definition of marriage in Maryland to “only a marriage between a man and a woman,” while Burns’ bill invalidates same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries.
Burns, D-Baltimore County, said he opposes same-sex unions and marriages because they are “not the norm.”
Discrimination against homosexuals is not the same as discrimination aimed at African-Americans, Burns said, because homosexuality is “a matter of preference.”
“Don’t equate my plight with yours . . . they’re not the same,” Burns, who is black, said. “It is one more instance of tearing down the social, political, moral, educational fiber of our nation.”
Delegate Samuel Rosenberg, D-Baltimore, said Burns is in the minority by opposing anti-discrimination legislation.
“We should respect the decisions of other jurisdictions,” Rosenberg said. “It is not a threat to the sanctity and well-being of marriage in the state of Maryland.”
Boutin’s amendment would need to pass by a three-fifths vote in both chambers and receive a majority vote by referendum in the next general election before it would become law.
Boutin designed the bill to go to referendum so that the people of Maryland could decide and to make it harder for the Legislature to change the law.
Gay rights activists said legislation like what Burns and Boutin are proposing writes discrimination into law.
“Often times these types of proposals are really overheated responses,” said Michael Adams, an attorney for Lambda Legal, a national gay and lesbian legal services organization.
Negative reaction by the religious community is also often unfounded, Adams said. Whatever the courts rule does not force a religious community to change its own practices or rules, Adams said.
Some churches have offered same-sex blessings to parishioners, though the unions are not recognized by the state.
Two of the three Maryland dioceses of the Episcopal Church have an unwritten policy of allowing individual churches to offer same-sex blessings, said Rev. Michael Hopkins, rector at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Glenn Dale.
By mid-year, Hopkins said, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, which includes St. Mary’s, Montgomery, Prince George’s and Charles counties, will put that policy in writing.
Burns’ bill mirrors the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which limits the definition of marriage in federal law to include only marriage between a man and a woman. Ohio is the most recent of 38 states to pass statewide versions of the federal legislation. -30- CNS-2-5-04