While small steps are indeed being taken to recognize same sex partnerships in the state of Maryland, marriage for homosexual couples is still not considered legal by law. According to the 1973 Maryland Family Law, Section 2-201- one of the first state laws of it’s kind to actually define marriage, in the state of Maryland, marriage unions are only valid if performed between a man and a woman.
And although this 37-year old Maryland marriage law has been strongly upheld by the Maryland Court of Appeals, Maryland gay marriage supporters have been putting up a fight to have the Maryland marriage laws altered to include homosexual couples.
On July 4, 2004, for instance, a lawsuit by the name of Dean & Polyak v. Conaway was filed on behalf of nine same-sex couples and a recently widowed gay partner by the American Civil Liberties Union. The lawsuit sought to have Maryland gay unions legalized within the state. While the Court of Appeals acknowledged that marriage is a fundamental right, it argued that in Maryland, gay marriage between same-sex partners is not fundamental.
In a 4 to 3 decision, the high court rejected the arguments presented by the plaintiffs of the ACLU, which stressed that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is sex discrimination. On September 18, 2007, in a devastating upset, the court asserted that the Maryland marriage law does not deny Maryland gay couples their constitutional rights, and it was officially decided that the legal ban on same-sex marriage would remain in place.
Despite the setback, Maryland gay marriage supporters and equality activists continue to rally against this ban, waiting for Maryland marriage laws to include homosexuals like many other states. In the meantime, however, the General Assembly has passed two bills which create at least some form of domestic partnership in the state.
Although weak, very limited, and void of the rights to health care and tax benefits which heterosexual couples are allowed to enjoy, this legislation, which became effective in July 2008, includes 11 protections for domestic partners. For example, it allows for hospital visitation and the right to make funeral arrangements for each partners. It’s a seemingly small step in the greater movement to win complete marital rights, but at least it’s a start.
In a more recent development for the Maryland gay community, Douglas F. Gansler, the Attorney General of Maryland, has said that same-sex marriages performed in other states will be recognized until the state’s General Assembly or high courts specify otherwise. This February 2010 statement has yet to be determined.