Maryland High Court Denies Marriage Equality for Same-Sex Couples

by HRC Staff

WASHINGTON- Today, the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled that same-sex couples do not have a constitutional right to marriage equality. Today's decision reversed a lower-court ruling that Maryland's ban on marriage for same-sex couples violated the states Equal Rights Amendment.

"This is a setback in the fight for equality, but we remain confident that, ultimately, same-sex couples in Maryland who form committed relationships and build loving families will receive the same protections that the state provides to married opposite-sex couples," said Human Rights Campaign Joe Solmonese. "It's up to fair-minded legislators in Annapolis to do the right thing by ending discrimination against same-sex couples and their families. We urge Maryland's legislature to pass a bill extending marriage to same-sex couples, so that these families can receive the important protections they deserve."

On July 7, 2004, the ACLU, working closely with Equality Maryland, filed the Conaway v. Deane and Polyak case in Maryland state court on behalf of nine same-sex couples and one gay man seeking the equal right to marry in Maryland. The plaintiffs argued that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violates the state constitution's guarantee of equality.

On January 20, 2006, the Baltimore City Circuit Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, agreeing that Maryland's bar on marriage by same-sex couples violated the Equal Rights Amendment to the state constitution.That court's decision was appealed to the Maryland Court of Appeals, Maryland's high court, which today reversed the Circuit Court's decision and ruled against marriage equality for same-sex couples and their families.

Massachusetts remains the only state to recognize civil marriage for same-sex couples.

Five other states provide same-sex couples with access to all the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships. Three other states and Washington, D.C. provide same-sex couples with at least some of the basic benefits and protections made available to married heterosexual couples. In addition, a broad-based domestic partnership law is scheduled to become effective in Oregon next year. Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state.

Along with Equality Maryland and other LGBT rights and civil rights organizations, the Human Rights Campaign signed onto an amicus or "friend of the court" brief in the Deane case to support and further explain the case for extending civil marriage rights to same-sex couples under the state constitution. A number of other civil rights organizations, religious groups, child welfare experts, law professors, family and legal historians and others also either signed or filed briefs of their own in favor of extending civil marriage laws to same-sex couples.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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