Gay Marriage Law Passes in Maryland
On November 6, 2012, Maryland’s voters approved the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which authorizes same-sex couples to enter into civil marriages in the state. The law will take effect on January 1, 2013, authorizing Maryland courts to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
History of Gay Marriage in Maryland
In 1997, the Maryland legislature rejected a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in Maryland. In 2007, the Maryland Court of Appeals determined that the ban on gay marriage was constitutional.
The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act was introduced in 2008, seeking to amend the existing marriage law. The law would redefine marriage as a union between two people who are “not otherwise prohibited from marrying.”
In the meantime, laws were passed that provided gay couples with some important new legal protections. These protections included hospital visitation, the right to make funeral arrangements and some tax benefits that previously only applied to heterosexual married couples.
Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler issued a legal opinion in 2010 that allowed the state to recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in other states. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that these marriages must be recognized as valid.
The Civil Marriage Protection Act
Senate Bill 116, known as the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, was a bill proposed in 2011 that would grant equal rights and protections to gay couples within Maryland. Although the bill was approved by the Maryland State Senate, the House returned the bill to committee.
House Bill 438, known as the Civil Marriage Protection Act, was introduced on February 1, 2012. In this version of the law, more protections were offered to clergy and religious institutions, authorizing them to refuse to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies. The bill passed both the House and Senate, and Governor Martin O’Malley signed the bill into law on March 1, 2012.
After O’Malley signed the Civil Marriage Protection Act into law, the Maryland Marriage Alliance collected 160,000 signatures to trigger a referendum, forcing the issue to be decided by Maryland voters. The Maryland Marriage Alliance consists of religious organizations and community groups who believe that same-sex marriage laws have an adverse effect on individuals and organizations. O’Malley was a strong advocate for the law and embarked on a strong fundraising appeal in support of the measure.
The referendum appeared as Question 6 on the Maryland ballot in November 2012. The bill affirms the rights of clergy to determine who is authorized to be married within the faith. It also protects organizations from providing goods or services to anyone involved in a marriage that violates their religious beliefs. Nearly 52 percent of Maryland voters supported the law, which will go into effect at the beginning of 2013.