Maryland Judge Strikes Down Marriage Law

A judge stuck down a 33-year-old Maryland law validating only heterosexual marriages, following a lawsuit by nine gay couples and one individual who said the law violated the state’s constitution.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock ruled Thursday that the current law violates the state constitution because it “discriminates based on gender.” City clerks will not be allowed to issue marriage licenses since the decision was stayed, pending an appeal.

“After much study and serious reflection, the Court holds that Maryland’s statutory prohibition against same-sex marriage cannot withstand this constitutional challenge,” wrote Murdock.

The state attorney general had argued for the constitutionality of Maryland’s 1973 law, which only validates a marriage only between a man and a woman.

Currently 19 states across the country have passed amendments to their state constitutions defining marriage as being a covenant between a man and a woman, in order to avoid legal challenges. Massachusetts is the only state allowing “gay marriages” due to a ruling by that state’s highest court.

In her ruling, the judge said there is “no apparent compelling state interest” in prohibiting homosexual marriage.

In 1972, Maryland voters passed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which states that the "equality of rights under the law shall not be abridged or denied because of sex."

However in 1973, the legislature passed the marriage law making heterosexual marriages the only ones considered valid. The Judge found that the state law violated the ERA.

A spokesman for Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) said the governor had heard of the ruling, but had not seen it, according to the Associated Press.

"It has been forwarded to his legal counsel for review," spokesman Henry Fawell said. "It would be premature to comment on the ruling at this point, but as the governor has said before, he believes marriage is between one man and one woman."

Ken Choe, an American Civil Liberties Union Lawyer who argued the case before the judge, referred to two of the plaintiffs he argued for.

“The court was right to conclude that preventing same-sex couples from marrying is sex discrimination,” he said in a released statement. “The only reason Lisa Polyak can’t marry her partner of 24 years, Gita Deane, is because she is another woman and not a man, as the court recognized, is unconstitutional.”

However the Senate President, Thomas V. Mike Miller (D), believed the ruling would be overturned.

"In my opinion, the plaintiffs forum-shopped," Miller said, according to AP. "I don't think the same opinion would have been rendered in 90 percent of the other circuits in the state of Maryland."

The case is Polyak v. Conaway 24-C-04-005390.