ANNAPOLIS – A move to prevent recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states, killed in committee last week, was resurrected briefly Tuesday as an amendment on the floor of the House of Delegates.
The amendment was identical to the bill sponsored by Delegate Emmett C. Burns, D-Baltimore County, which was dumped by the House Judiciary Committee Friday.
Delegate Gail Bates, R-Howard, tried to tack it onto a technical bill on marriage fees, but the House defeated the measure 82-52.
The bill and the amendment come amid a national debate on same-sex marriages. President Bush called Feb. 24 for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages, after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled denying marriage licenses to same-sex couples was against the state’s constitution. Jurisdictions in California, New York, New Mexico and Oregon have issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Although Burns sponsored the original bill, he voted against the amendment on the House floor because he said he wanted to show respect for the committee process.
“I lost in committee, and if I was going to win, that’s where I should have won,” said Burns. “That committee was wrong and they’re still wrong.”
The measure, he said, is still necessary to strengthen current law.
But committee Chairman Joseph Vallario, D-Prince George’s, said the amendment, like the bill killed in committee, was unnecessary because Maryland law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
“Maryland stands in the forefront to say same-sex marriage will not be recognized in this state,” Vallario said.
The Attorney General’s Office ruled marriages performed in other states do not have to be recognized in Maryland, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act protects states from forced recognition of same-sex unions, Vallario said.
Rulings by the courts could mandate recognition of same-sex marriages, Burns warned.
“Right now our door is wide open,” he said. “Our law is silent on the imposition of marriages from other states.”
The amendment would “clean up” the law, Bates said. “We as a policy believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.”
That policy is already law, said openly gay lawmaker Delegate Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore.
“To have passed that bill or adopted that amendment is redundant,” she said, therefore all votes against the amendment should not be interpreted as for same-sex marriage.
A related bill – a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman – also was killed in the Judiciary Committee Friday. The Senate will hear its version of the bill and constitutional amendment in committee Wednesday.