Friday, February 24, 2012

Maryland Legislature Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill; Governor Will Sign It

WBAL-TV reports that the Maryland legislature yesterday gave final passage to House Bill 438, the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which legalizes same-sex marriage in Maryland. A statement issued by the Governor immediately after the bill's passage made clear that he will sign the bill. The state Senate passed the bill yesterday by a vote of 25-22, following passage last week in the House of Delegates by a vote of 72-67. When effective, this will make Maryland the 8th state to recognize same-sex marriage.

The bill provides that clergy may not be required to perform marriage ceremonies that violate their free exercise rights. It also provides a religious organization, or any nonprofit institution supervised or controlled by a religion organization, "may not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to an individual ... related to:  (1) the solemnization of a marriage or celebration of a marriage that is in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs; or (2) the promotion of marriage through any social or religious programs or services, in violation of the entity’s religious beliefs, unless State or federal funds are received for that specific program or service." The bill also contains a non-severability clause, calling for invalidation of the entire law if any part or application of it is found unconstitutional.

In the hard-fought debate in the legislature, opponents raised numerous issues, including a concern that the bill would threaten Mothers Day and Fathers Day.  Opponents promise to seek a referendum on the bill and placed language in it attempting to assure that it would not become effective until after a referendum on it.