A judge in Maryland struck down the state’s 33-year-old law banning same-sex marriage in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Baltimore trial judge M. Brooke Murdock ruled the law discriminates on the basis of sex, violating the 1972 Maryland Declaration of Rights, referred to as Maryland’s Equal Rights Amendment.
“This is such an exciting moment,” said Lisa Polyak, one of 19 plaintiffs.
“Our participation in this lawsuit has always been about family protections for our children. Tonight, we will rest a little easier knowing that those protections are within reach,” she said, according to the Associated Press.
Before voters ratified the ERA amendment in November 1972, Maryland’s attorney general issued an opinion that a ban on same-sex marriage was implicit in the state’s laws. The next year, the General Assembly passed a law stating: “Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this State.”
But the court today found no “compelling interest” to ban same-sex marriage and was “unable to even find that the prohibition of same-sex marriage rationally relates to a legitimate state interest.”
Murdock wrote: “The court concludes that the prohibition of same-sex marriages is not rationally related to the state interest in the rearing of biological children by married, opposite-sex parents.”
The court also stated it was “unable to find that preventing same-sex marriage rationally relates to the [sic] Maryland’s interest in promoting the best interest of children.”
Murdock stated that “the General Assembly may have assumed that opposite-sex marriages less frequently end in divorce, that opposite-sex couples are better parents, or that opposite-sex couples focus more on their children’s education.” But, he said, “these assumptions are not rational speculation; they are broad unsupported generalizations that do not establish a rational relation between same-sex marriage and the state’s interest in promoting procreation, child-rearing, and the best interest of children.”
Rev. Rob Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, called the ruling “absurd.”
“If there’s no good reason for exclusively heterosexual marriage, then there’s no good reason for an exclusively two-person marriage,” he said. “Or, for that matter, there’s no good reason to limit marriage to two human beings.”
Shenk said the judge is “making a political and social statement, not an interpretation of the law. She should be impeached for dereliction of duty.”
Condemning the decision, Mathew D. Staver, president and general counsel of the public-interest legal group Liberty Counsel, said it was “outrageous for a judge to morph into a legislator.”
“It is even more incredible to conclude that there is no conceivable basis to promote marriage between a man and a woman,” he said. “To conclude that there is no relationship between male-female marriage and child-rearing, or the best interest of children, shows a lack of respect to the legislature, to common sense and to social science.”
Staver said the decision illustrates why each state and the United States must pass constitutional amendments to preserve marriage between one man and one woman.
“Marriage should not depend on the stroke of a single judge’s pen.”
The decision will be appealed, said Staver, noting Liberty Counsel will file a friend-of-the-court brief.
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