Md. AG considers recognizing gay marriages

Posted on 02 Jun 2009 at 4:39pm
By Associated Press

Republican lawmaker vows to ‘take him to task’ if Gansler issues opinion favorable to gay marriage recognition

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler is looking into whether the state can recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, and his office plans to issue an opinion in the coming weeks.

State law defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but Maryland also sticks to a long-standing legal principle that generally acknowledges couples married elsewhere.

Gansler, a Democrat, supports gay marriage. While Maryland has extended a variety of protections to same-sex couples in recent years, it has stopped short of legalizing marriages or civil unions. Gov. Martin O’Malley, also a Democrat, supports the latter.

Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Gansler, declined to comment while the matter is being researched.

Any move to recognize gay marriages could be seen as an end-run around the legislature and is likely to draw legal challenges.

"The attorney general took the same oath that I did to protect the laws and constitution of this state," said Delegate Don H. Dwyer, R-Anne Arundel, a gay-rights opponent. "If he gives an opinion that somehow circumvents the law, I am going to take him to task."

New York Gov. David A. Paterson signed an executive order last year directing state agencies to recognize same-sex nuptials performed elsewhere. District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty signed a bill this month that did the same.

Gay-rights advocates say the recognition of out-of-state marriages will strengthen relationships and confer hundreds of rights, benefits and responsibilities that gay couples currently lack.

"In some ways, this could be a back door toward marriage equality," said Delegate Heather R. Mizeur, D-Montgomery, who married her wife, Deborah, in California last year. "I hold out hope for the day that it’s part of our everyday culture here in Maryland, and it’s no big deal."

Gay marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont. Efforts to legalize it in Maryland through the courts have failed, and legislative proposals have remained bottled up in committee.

The state attorney general’s office has occasionally weighed in on the question of gay marriages from other states. Robert A. Zarnoch, a former assistant attorney general, wrote that Maryland law would prohibit recognition of such unions, but he also found that the law on the matter is far from clear or settled.

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