Maryland high court hears 'gay marriage' case

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (BP)--Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union asked the highest court in Maryland Dec. 4 to strike down the state's marriage laws and make it the second state in the nation to legalize "gay marriage."

Oral arguments before the Court of Appeal lasted one hour. The seven justices gave no indication as to when they might rule. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of nine same-sex couples and one homosexual man whose partner is deceased.

"Despite the fact that plaintiffs have formed committed relationships … the state excludes them and their children from the numerous important protections that come from marriage, solely because the person whom they love is of the same sex," ACLU attorney Kenneth Choe told the justices, according to The Baltimore Sun. "The exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage violates the most fundamental guarantees of equality and liberty for all Marylanders."

But Assistant Attorney General Robert A. Zarnoch said the matter should be left to the legislature. Maryland adopted a law in 1973 defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. Earlier this year a Maryland judge ruled the law unconstitutional, but her decision was appealed.

"The court doesn't have to disparage gay parenting to uphold this law, it doesn't have to assess the merits of an armload of studies and it doesn't have to find that the institution of marriage is threatened," Zarnoch said, according to The Sun. "It can uphold the statute without making any of those kinds of determinations.

"Can the court address all the plaintiffs' grievances? Clearly it can't. The General Assembly is the proper forum to deal with these issues."

The justices asked few questions.

"I didn't think the judges' questions helped a lot [in determining how they might rule]," Zarnoch said afterward, according to The Sun. "There weren't as many as you might think there would be. I don't think we can read the court one way or another."

Maryland is one of four states involved in "gay marriage" suits. The others are Iowa, California and Connecticut. The suits in the latter two states have been appealed to those states' respective Supreme Courts, although the courts have yet to decide whether they will hear the cases. Lower courts in both states ruled against "gay marriage."

Massachusetts remains the lone state to recognize "gay marriage." Supreme courts in New York, New Jersey and Washington state all ruled this year that there is no constitutional right to "gay marriage."


Compiled by Michael Foust. For more information about the national debate over "gay marriage," visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage