ANNAPOLIS, Md. (BP)–The highest court in Maryland refused to legalize “gay marriage” Sept. 18, handing homosexual activists another significant defeat in one of the nation’s leading cultural issues.
In its 4-3 decision the Court of Appeals ruled that the state has a “legitimate governmental interest” in “fostering procreation” by limiting marriage to one man and one woman. The ruling overturned a lower court ruling from last year that had sided with “gay marriage” supporters.
It is the fourth consecutive time that a state high court has said there is no constitutional right to “gay marriage.” Courts in New Jersey, New York and Washington ruled similarly last year, although the New Jersey court did side with homosexual activists in ordering the legal benefits of marriage be granted. Massachusetts remains the lone state to recognize “marriage” between homosexuals; high courts in California and Connecticut are considering such cases, and Iowa’s is expected to do so as well.
In writing the majority opinion, Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. said the state’s marriage laws do not violate the Maryland constitution’s equal rights amendment, equal protection clause or due process clause. The justice also pointed to U.S. Supreme Court precedence in tying the natural, traditional definition of marriage to procreation.
“[V]irtually every Supreme Court case recognizing as fundamental the right to marry indicates as the basis for the conclusion the institution’s inextricable link to procreation, which necessarily and biologically involves participation (in ways either intimate or remote) by a man and a woman,” Harrell wrote.
The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of nine same-sex couples and a single homosexual man. The ACLU pointed to the Supreme Court’s 1967 Loving v. Virginia ruling overturning bans on interracial marriage and argued that bans on “gay marriage” should likewise fall. But the justices disagreed and said there are no ties between former bans on interracial marriage and current laws against “gay marriage.”
Quoting another court’s decision, Harrell wrote, “[I]mplicit in Loving and predecessor opinions is the notion that marriage, often linked to procreation, is a union forged between one man and one woman.”
Conservatives in the state were quick to praise the ruling, particularly since it came from a mostly left-leaning court.
“It speaks with a loud voice, especially coming from a state like Maryland, which is predominantly a liberal state,” said Robert Anderson Jr., pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, Md. “But when you come to the bottom line of morals and things that are right and wrong, marriage should only be defined one way, and I’m glad to say that my state is able to cut through what’s liberal and what’s conservative and get to what’s right.”
Anderson, an African American, said he is particularly pleased that the court denied supposed links between “gay rights” and civil rights. He added that Democrats and Republicans have united against “gay marriage.”
Chris Stovall, an attorney with the pro-family group Alliance Defense Fund, also applauded the ruling. ADF filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Family Research Council, supporting the current law.
“The majority decision is a home run,” Stovall told Baptist Press. “… The holding essentially says that political special interests don’t get to trump what’s best for families and children, and that the legislature can rationally conclude that the reason we have marriage laws is to encourage men and women to raise their children together because that’s what’s best for children.”
Even though it was a victory, conservatives note, it came by only one vote. In fact, decisions last year in New Jersey and Washington upholding state marriage laws also came by one-vote margins.
“It’s very significant, but I don’t think people should be lulled into a false sense of security,” Stovall said.
The Connecticut Supreme Court is expected to issue a “gay marriage” decision any day. An Iowa judge last month ordered “gay marriage” to be legalized, although the ruling is being appealed. And, the California Supreme Court is scheduled to hear such a case in the coming months.
“One of the lessons here is that while this decision went the right way and it’s a great thing, the only sure method for people in any particular state to protect the institution of marriage is to write it in black and white into their state constitution with an amendment,” Stovall said.
Although 27 states have passed constitutional marriage amendments, Maryland is not one of them.
Harrell said that while the court found no fundamental right to “gay marriage,” the state legislature nevertheless still could act on the issue.
“In declaring that the state’s legitimate interests in fostering procreation and encouraging the traditional family structure in which children are born are related reasonably to the means employed by [current law], our opinion should by no means be read to imply that the general assembly may not grant and recognize for homosexual persons civil unions or the right to marry a person of the same sex,” he wrote.
Already, there is talk of legislators introducing bills to legalize either “gay marriage” or Vermont-style civil unions. The ACLU of Maryland issued a statement saying it was taking its case to the legislature and wasn’t giving up.
“It will be a hard-fought battle there,” Anderson said.
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press.