January 17, 2010

Del. Burns pushes for Md. bar on out-of-state gay marriage

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By Erich Wagner
Erich@MarylandReporter.com

While other states wrangle with the question of whether to legalize same-sex marriage, one lawmaker is trying to prevent the practice from spreading to Maryland.

Del. Emmett Burns, D-Baltimore County, is sponsoring a bill that would ensure that same-sex marriages performed in other states would not be considered valid in Maryland. It would also codify the definition of marriage in state law as being “between a man and a woman.”

Burns, a minister, described the bill as one of his top priorities for this year’s legislative session in an interview last week.

“The bill would prohibit out-of-state same-sex marriages from being recognized in Maryland,” Burns said.

Burns has introduced similar bills in the past, most recently in 2005, but that year’s bill did not make it past its initial committee hearing.

Del. Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, is expected to be one of the bill’s strongest opponents. She is openly gay, and lives with her spouse, Deborah.

Mizeur said she and her spouse are currently waiting on Attorney General Doug Gansler’s opinion on this issue, as they have an out-of-state marriage license from California. Sen. Richard Maladeno, D-Montgomery, initially put the issue of the validity of out-of-state same-sex marriages before Gansler in May of last year. Madaleno is also openly gay.

Washington D.C. recently passed its own bill legalizing same-sex marriage. The bill now awaits congressional approval before it can go into effect. New Hamsphire began performing same-sex marriages at the beginning of the year, and same-sex marriages are also legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Mizeur said a vote in favor of Burns’ bill would be out of character for the General Assembly.

“I think Maryland continues to create paths forward on how to be more progressive on a range of issues, and marriage equality is included in that,” Mizeur said. “And this bill would be a step back.”

Mizeur added that she does not hold anything against Burns for introducing the bill.

“It’s totally within his rights as a legislator to put in a bill,” Mizeur said. “Just because I disagree with him doesn’t mean he shouldn’t introduce it.”