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Gay Marriage--Beyond the Politics

As lawmakers and jurists across Annapolis geared up for the aftermath of a judge's ruling Friday that struck down a 1973 law banning same sex marriage, the result was far more personal for a College Park couple who cheered it and some Prince George's ministers who didn't.

Dave Kolesar, 28, and Patrick Wojahn, 30, has signed on as plaintiffs when the ACLU decided to challenge Maryland's law, which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

They had their day in court in Baltimore last August, and then waited for months for Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock to make her decision.

Kolesar, an engineer at the US. Naval Research Laborartory admitted he never allowed himself to hope too hard.
Then came Friday's ruling. It bowled him over.

"It really is exciting," he said soon after hearing the news. "I wasn't ready mentally for success."

The case must still wend its way through appeals courts, as well as political fallout in the General Assembly.

He and Wojahn, a lawyer, said they became convinced of the importance of the legal rights of marriage during a medical crisis in 1996. After Kolesar nearly died from a rare brain infection, the two men, realized how crucial it was to them to be entitled to be involved in one another's medical decisions.

"One of the rights is to be able to visit a spouse in the hospital," said Wojahn. "If we win at the court of appeals level, we'll finally have that right."

Added Kolesar, "We want to make sure we can take care of each other."

Not everyone was so delighted by the decision.

Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Lanham, said the judge's ruling will disproportionately affect the African American community.

"This is another step in the devaluing of the institution of marriage between a man and a woman," said Jackson, the founder of a conservative group of African-American ministers, who has been speaking out across the country against same-sex marriages.

"The biggest impact of this legislation will be in the African-American community because 70 percent of the babies born in the African-American community are to unwed mothers, so the logic is more people will not wait to get married. We are not taking this lying down."

The Rev. Eric Redmond, pastor of the Hillcrest Baptist Church in Temple Hills, said he spoke to the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus in Annapolis regarding the issue of same sex marriages.

"My concern is legalizing same sex unions teaches a society that marriage is only about fulfilling sexual and emotional desires," Redmond said."I think homosexual can can have equal civil rights with heterosexuals without altering the historic definition of marriage."

Mary Otto and Hamil R. Harris

By Phyllis Jordan  |  January 20, 2006; 11:17 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly , Same-Sex Marriage  
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Of note legally, is the fact that while the Equal Rights Amendment failed to pass on a national level, it did pass and become a part of the Maryland Constitution. At the time, it had some dramatic effects as it immediately invalidated our alimony stautes which were not gender neutral. I suspect that this provision of our particular State Constition may strengthen the Court's ruling. I also suspect that this provision, which I suspect is absent in other states, may be why our decision will not serve as precedent for other states.

PS: My late father, Charles S. Blumenthal, House of Delegates from Oxon Hill, was the sole author of the bills which caused Maryland to ratify the unsucessful national amandment and to create its own state provision.

Posted by: George Blumenthal | January 22, 2006 10:40 AM | Report abuse

People confuse the equality of women as part of the civil rights movement. It was a byproduct of one legislator believing if he got that added into the legislation that it'd definitely be shot down and wasn't there originally. I have no issues with it, but I think people historically misrepresenting what actually happened is pretty bad.

Posted by: Bryan | January 22, 2006 4:42 PM | Report abuse

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