A bill to block Maryland from recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere has been introduced in anticipation of Attorney General Douglas Gansler releasing an opinion on the issue.
House Bill 90, from Del. Emmett Burns Jr. (D-Baltimore County), also declares marriages between individuals of the same-sex against state policy, but stops short of amending the constitution.
The proposed measure comes as state Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery County) prepares to re-introduce later this month a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland.
“We’ll have more co-sponsors this year than we did last year and we’ll continue to make the argument to people who are open to it that we need to do it,” Madaleno said.
Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery County), who wed her spouse, Deborah, in California when such marriages were legal in the Golden State, said same-sex marriage supporters have won the issue in the Maryland House and need only secure enough votes in the Senate to pass the marriage bill.
“We have in the General Assembly stepped up and done a lot of things just short of marriage equality in the last few several years to get us more relationship recognition,” Mizeur said.
“Del. Burns’ bill is a step backwards that I think the General Assembly will flatly reject. I predict his bill won’t even get out of the Judiciary Committee because the votes aren’t there. We have the votes in the House, in the judiciary Committee, to pass full marriage equality, but we’re a vote shy in the Judicial Proceedings Committee in the Senate.
“It’s important for us to advance full marriage equality in the legislature even if we’re short on a few votes because we’re heading into an election year and some folks are making their decision on whether to support a candidate based on key votes like this.”
Burns could not be reached for comment. Last week, his office told DC Agenda that he would not have time to respond to questions about his bill.
Burns’ official biography notes that he served in the Air Force, is a member of the National Baptist Convention, and serves as vice-chair of the National Black Caucus of State Legislator’s civil rights committee since 2000.
Madaleno said he doubted his Democratic colleague could be moved on LGBT civil rights issues, but noted such was true for some members of both parties.
“Neither party is monolithic on this issue,” he said. “When you look at the vote in 2001 on [the] anti-discrimination act which added sexual orientation to the state’s non-discrimination law in housing, employment and public accommodations, Emmett Burns was the only African-American in either chamber to oppose the bill.”
Burns previously sought to ban same-sex marriage by constitutional amendment, but his latest bill appeared to focus on preventing Gansler’s office from recognizing out-of-state and foreign same-sex marriages. Madaleno asked the attorney general to look into the issue in May 2009 and LGBT activists have encouraged Gansler to recognize such unions.
Equality Maryland Executive Director Morgan Meneses-Sheets said the attorney general’s decision is to be legally grounded — and Maryland has a precedent of honoring marriages from other states that could not legally be performed in the state.
Gansler’s office said this week there was no timeframe by which the opinion will be finalized. His office also declined to comment when asked for its reaction to Burns’ bill.