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Posted at 5:48 PM ET, 03/ 3/2011

Separate but equal in Maryland?

By Todd Eberly

Update: March 4, 2011, 10:49 a.m. Del. Alston's position has been clarified -- she would end marriage in Maryland and replace it with civil unions for all. This certainly negates the separate-but-equal issue, but otherwise does not really resolve much of anything.

Original post: As a follow-up to her decision to reconsider supporting a marriage equality bill that she co-sponsored, Del. Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George's) says that she has found the answer -- an amendment that would offer civil unions instead. "I have what I believe to be a solution," Alston reportedly said.

Civil Unions is not an altogether new solution. A hundred years ago we referred to such solutions as "separate but equal." Under the guise of separate but equal, African Americans were entitled to receive the very same public services and accommodations as whites -- public schools, bathrooms, water fountains -- but states were free to provide different facilities for each. The Supreme Court endorsed the policy in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson, and six decades of legal segregation followed -- until a later court, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, acknowledged what everyone knew: Separate but equal was anything but equal.

If Maryland decides as a matter of law that heterosexual couples can marry but homosexual couples must enter civil unions, then it will be taking the coward's way out and declaring that separate but equal is an acceptable public policy. The state would be living up to the legacy of native son Roger Taney, author of the infamous Dred Scott decision. But is that the legacy Del. Alston, or any other member of the assembly, wants to leave?

Todd Eberly blogs at The FreeStaterBlog. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Todd Eberly  | March 3, 2011; 5:48 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, Maryland, Prince George's County  
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PLEASE!!! Anytime liberals feel the need to push their agenda they just pull out the civil rights argument. Equate everything to the battle for civil rights. Just come out and say it - you would like to see a further erosion of the traditional family.

Posted by: dwhite3 | March 3, 2011 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I have a "traditional" family. A wonderful wife, beautiful children. Everyone should should have the opportunity to have that. As to equating everything to the battle for civil rights - when two things are equal they should be equated. The 14th amendment guarantees equal protection under the law and the 9th amendment states "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." So my "agenda" is the Constitution.

Posted by: toddeberly | March 3, 2011 10:33 PM | Report abuse

It's my understanding that Alston's proposal is that Maryland get out of the marriage business and ONLY offer civil unions to couples. Marriages would be the domain of religion. That negates the separate-but-equal argument and is a logical, defensible proposition. It's also wrongheaded at this juncture, essentially reducing the debate to a matter of semantics. If Alston believes that civil marriage rights should be available to all couples, then she should back HB175. To scuttle HB175 over a word, even one that's become as charged as "marriage" has would be wrong.

Posted by: tcr25 | March 4, 2011 8:01 AM | Report abuse

I guess god talked to Alston, and Carter didn't learn a thing from her father. They seem willing to create another group of second-class citizens.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 4, 2011 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Her clarification is important and would negate a separate but equal issue - I have updated my original post and written a new one. Ending marriage to avoid extending it as an institution to same sex couples is really no less drastic. The state would essentially be saying, "rather than denegrate the institution of marriage, we'll simply end it." Hardly a solution.

Posted by: toddeberly | March 4, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

This "separate but equal" and "equal protection" stuff is a ruse. In Maryland, as in all other states. Any person may marry a person of the opposite sex, provided that they are both of age and not too closely related, and are not already married (along with a few other restrictions). This applies to all citizens equally and not separately. Please come up with a reasonable argument to change those requirements rather than pretend that your preference is constitutionally protected and/or guaranteed.

Posted by: GnirJ | March 4, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I fail to see the ruse. As you write "in Maryland, as in all other states any person may marry a person of the opposite sex." The equal protection violation is obvious and clear in your statement - why should marriage be limited to heterosexual couples? The equal protection violation is clear.

Posted by: toddeberly | March 4, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Pay attention, these are the rules for everyone and they are to be applied equally. These rules do indeed exclude alot of people, not just homosexuals, but they are to be applied to all citizens equally. If people who do qualify are not allowed to marry or people who don't are allowed to marry, then you have an equal protection problem.

Posted by: GnirJ | March 4, 2011 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Pay attention? "these are the rules for everyone and they are to be applied equally" Under that logic, then it would be ok to change the rules to once again ban interracial marriage. The problem is the rules are not applied equally, as the "rules" exclude a class of citizens based on sexual orientation. How do you not see the glaring contradictions within your argument?

Posted by: toddeberly | March 4, 2011 6:07 PM | Report abuse

I would add, under your application of the concept of equal protection, it would be ok to have a law that stated only whites could marry whites, only blacks could marry blacks, only jews could marry jews, only catholics could marry catholics - as the long as they are applied to everyone equally.

Posted by: toddeberly | March 4, 2011 6:11 PM | Report abuse

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