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Marriage Issue Persists

Persistent worries among Democrats about how -- and when -- Maryland's highest court will resolve the question of same-sex marriage has prompted a second attempt by House members to delay any ruling from taking effect before November's election.

Del. Luiz R. S. Simmons (D-Montgomery) filed a bill yesterday that offers a slightly different approach to his earlier proposal on the subject, but the aim appears to be the same: to prevent a ruling from changing the law before the legislature has a chance to intervene.

Simmons called the proposal a "contingency measure," that he believes would only be seriously considered if the Court of Appeals signals it will begin deliberating the same-sex marriage ruling made by a Baltimore judge last month.

The ruling, which declared Maryland's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, has been stayed pending an opinion from appellate courts. But it touched off a spasm of action on the issue in Annapolis, which ended with the House of Delegates rejecting a proposal to write the ban into the state constitution.

Some Democrats worry that the high court could grab the case. And if the judges were to uphold the lower court ruling, and sanction same-sex marriage, they fear it could drive up Election Day turnout for Republicans.

The new Simmons bill would advise, but not compel, the court to stay any ruling that overturns a state law, in order to give the legislature a chance to address such a decision with a constitutional amendment.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George's) helped craft the proposal, and said yesterday he thought the approach was prudent. It could help avoid the confusion that could be caused if the court sanctioned same-sex marriage, and then the legislature turned around a year later and banned it again, he said.

But House Minority Whip Anthony J. O'Donnell (Calvert) called the proposal "more game playing by the Democratic Party." He said Republicans would oppose the approach. And they will not be alone. Some Democrats who support same-sex marriage rights may join them.

Del. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) said the bill seemed to him like a waste of effort. "The court can already issue a stay if it wishes," he said.

By  |  February 9, 2006; 7:55 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly , Same-Sex Marriage  
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