ANNAPOLIS, Md. (BP)–For a few months at least, the epicenter of the nationwide legal debate over “gay marriage” will reside in Maryland.
The state’s highest court will hear oral arguments Monday, Dec. 4, in a case that could make the Old Line State the second in America to legalize “gay marriage.” Similar cases are pending before the California and Connecticut Supreme Courts, although neither body has decided whether it even will take up the cases.
“Gay marriage” supporters in Maryland won on the trial court level in January, when Judge M. Brooke Murdock ruled that a 1973 law defining marriage as being between one man and one woman violates the Maryland constitution’s Equal Rights Amendment. She ordered “gay marriage” to be legalized, although her ruling was stayed pending an emergency appeal to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state.
Supporters of “gay marriage” hope the Maryland court ends a streak of losses. This year alone, supreme courts in New York, Washington state and New Jersey ruled that there is no constitutional right to “gay marriage.”
Owen M. Taylor, an Annapolis attorney, told The Gazette newspaper in Maryland that the issue should be left up to the state legislature. Taylor filed a brief supporting the current law on behalf of the American Center for Law and Justice.
“There’s an element in [Murdock’s] decision that is not judicial in nature. It’s social in nature, and those issues are better left to a legislature,” Taylor said. “The law as written … requires no interpretation. The court ought to uphold it.”
Following Murdock’s ruling, supporters of natural, traditional marriage introduced a constitutional marriage amendment in the legislature, although Democrats blocked it and prevented it from getting a floor vote in the House of Delegates, The Gazette reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of nine homosexual couples.
The Connecticut case was appealed to that state’s highest court on Nov. 29 by the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, which lost at the trial level.
The California case, which involves a host of liberal and homosexual organizations, was filed with the state Supreme Court Nov. 13. That case involves lawsuits by the city of San Francisco as well as Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. They won at the trial court but lost at the appeals court level.
N.J. CONSERVATIVES PROPOSE ALTERNATIVES — New Jersey conservatives held a press conference Nov. 27 where they proposed two alternatives to a state Supreme Court ruling that ordered the legislature either to legalize “gay marriage” or Vermont-style civil unions.
The first alternative is a constitutional marriage amendment, which likely faces an uphill climb in the legislature. If passed it would go before voters for approval.
The second alternative, according to The Star-Ledger newspaper, is an “Equal Benefits Bill” that would grant marriage benefits to a host of relationships — for instance, a brother and a sister who share financial responsibilities. It also would include same-sex couples but would not be exclusive to them.
“There are many families who cannot have access to the benefits of marriage because their living arrangements are outside the realm of marriage,” Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, said, according to the Star-Ledger. “For example, two elderly women who are domiciled together, or perhaps a grandparent and grandchild.”
Leaders in the state legislature have said they expected legislators to adopt civil unions, not “gay marriage.”
MASS. COURT TO HEAR AMEND. CASE — The highest court in Massachusetts will hear oral arguments Dec. 20 in a case that could determine whether a proposed constitutional marriage amendment makes it on the 2008 ballot. The case stems from a lawsuit filed by Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, who is asking the high court to place the amendment on the ballot if the legislature fails to act on it.
Judith A. Cowin, associate justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, heard arguments for 20 minutes Nov. 30, then hours later decided to place the matter before the entire court on an expedited basis, The Boston Globe reported. The Dec. 20 hearing will come two weeks before Romney leaves office, The Globe reported. He did not seek re-election.
Legislators are scheduled to meet Jan. 2 to deal with the amendment, although both sides believe the body likely will attempt to adjourn without taking action. Amendment supporters say they have the votes to pass it if it is given a vote.
The state constitution, Romney says, requires legislators to give proposed amendments up-or-down votes. Amendment supporters gathered approximately 170,000 signatures to place it before the legislature.
“The legislature took an oath to uphold the constitution,” Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom told The Globe. “This is no longer just about gay marriage. It’s about the right of the people to participate in their own government.”
CANADA TO DEBATE ‘GAY MARRIAGE’ — The Canadian Parliament will begin debate Dec. 6 on a motion to reopen the issue of “gay marriage,” the Conservative government said Nov. 28, according to CBC News. If it passes, it could be the first step toward reversing a law passed in 2005 legalizing “gay marriage.” However, head counts show that the motion might fail.
The “gay marriage” law was pushed through by the then-Liberal government, which fell and was defeated at the polls by the Conservatives in January.
Christians throughout the country are urging Canadians to contact their member of Parliament (MP) in the days leading up to the vote.
“Whether the vote is favourable or not, may it not be said that God’s people were silent when such a critical issue was before our lawmakers,” Terence Rolston, president of Focus on the Family Canada, said in an e-mail to supporters. “Please stand with us and voice your support for God’s truth about marriage.”
Information on how Canadians can contact their MP is available at http://www.fotf.ca/tfn/takeAction/Activism_101/Contact_Officials.html.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage