Gansler says Md. could recognize same-sex marriages

Opinion does not carry weight of law, but meant to guide judges, agencies

February 24, 2010|By Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz | Baltimore Sun reporters

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler on Wednesday morning released a long-awaited opinion saying same-sex marriages performed in other states could be recognized by Maryland's legal system.

Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., a Democrat, asked in May asked if such marriages could be recognized. "The answer to that question is clearly 'yes,'" Gansler wrote in a 40-page document.

The opinion does not enable same-sex couples to wed here. It also does not carry the weight of law, but is meant to guide judges and state agencies.

"What we say in this opinion is a prediction, not a prescription" as to how a court would interpret the law, Gansler wrote.

Still, the opinion will likely stir an election-year debate about the polarizing issue. The House earlier this year rejected a bill that would have preempted Gansler's opinion by barring the state from recognizing same-sex marriages.

Del. Emmett Burns, the Baltimore County Democrat who introduced that measure, said he is "not surprised at all" by what he called a "poltitical" ruling.

"The attorney general has made a big mistake," Burns said. "I don't understand that kind of rationale coming from a legal mind. All it does is muddle. It doesn't clarify anything."

Burns said Gansler, whom he said may have his eye on a higher office, "is simply trying to develop a political base."

Burns said Sen. Norman Stone, a fellow Baltimore County Democrat, is pursuing a bill similar to his own effort to override Gansler's ruling by implementing a new law.

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary committee is considering a bill that would go even further by allowing same-sex marriages to be performed in Maryland. Burns said that if that measure comes to the House floor, it will cause "pandemonium in an election year."

Burns said he expects voters to ultimately decide the matter. "It is going to end up on referendum, and I am going to win."

Five states and Washington, D.C., have permitted same-sex marriages.

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