Delay criticized in same-sex union ruling

Gansler politicizing issue, GOP lawmakers contend

  • Del. Heather R. Mizeur, who is legally married to her partner in California, testifies against a bill that would bar Maryland from recognizing such unions.
Del. Heather R. Mizeur, who is legally married to her partner… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
January 29, 2010|By Annie Linskey |

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee took aim at the state's attorney general Thursday, accusing him at a hearing of playing politics with a highly anticipated opinion on whether Maryland law will honor same-sex marriage certificates issued by other states.

The opinion was requested in May, and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has not yet ruled, prompting Del. Don H. Dwyer of Anne Arundel County to say the lengthy deliberation process has "become political in nature."

Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. of Southern Maryland accused Gansler of "bastardizing" the process by "coming in the back door" to settle an issue that the delegate believes the General Assembly ought to debate. Smigiel predicted that Gansler would rule after the session ends in April.

Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Gansler, denied the accusations, saying that the attorney general is "taking the amount of time he needs to thoroughly investigate the issue."

The packed hearing was held for a bill introduced by Del. Emmett C. Burns that would pre-empt Gansler's opinion by barring recognition of same-sex marriages. Burns said the state is "in a crisis" because of the impending decision that he believes will allow the unions to honored. Such marriages, he believes, are "bad policy."

Susan Sommer, an attorney from the gay rights firm Lambda Legal, said recognition of same-sex marriages in New York has caused little turmoil. "The Big Apple has not tumbled," she said. "It has meant that people do not have to check their marriages when they cross state lines."

Burns, an African-American pastor, spent much of his testimony drawing distinctions between the civil-rights movement he participated in and the gay-marriage movement he opposes.

"I would not have been able to sit where I now sit as a member of the General Assembly during the days of discrimination based on the color of my skin," he said. "Gays and lesbians could," he said, because they can "hide" their sexual orientation more easily.

That prompted several Democratic delegates to read quotes from civil-rights luminaries who support gay marriage, including Rep. John Lewis and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond.

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