The American Civil Liberties Union has asked a Maryland circuit court to strike down a state law than bars same-sex couples from marriage and the hundreds of family protections afforded to married couples.
“The Maryland constitution requires that the state treat all Marylanders equally,” said Ken Choe, a Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project who argued the case. “And yet, despite the fact that lesbian and gay people make the same kinds of commitments to their partners and children that straight people make, the state denies them numerous protections that keep families afloat during difficult times. The state cannot justify such unequal treatment.”
The ACLU appeared before the Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock on behalf of nine same-sex couples who have been denied marriage licenses by the state, as well as a gay widower, many of whom were present in court. Equality Maryland worked hand-in-hand with the ACLU to bring the lawsuit.
“Our children need the same family protections that all families need,” said Alvin Williams, who along with his partner of seven years Nigel Simon, is raising three children who previously were in the Maryland foster care system. “I can’t understand why the state would want to deny them the security of knowing that their family has a safety net should we fall upon hard times.”
There is broad support within the state’s religious community for marriage for same-sex couples. More than 100 religious leaders from throughout the state signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the right of lesbian and gay people to marry. State civil rights organizations and one of the state’s leading child welfare organizations also filed briefs supporting marriage for same-sex couples.
“Since this case was filed, more and more Marylanders have come to realize that it is unfair to bar lesbian and gay families from marriage,” said Dan Furmansky, Executive Director of Equality Maryland, the state’s LGBT rights advocacy group. “Denying same-sex couples marriage protections, such as the ability of partners to make medical decisions for each other during medical emergencies, hurts families and ultimately the state.”
It is unknown when the court will issue its ruling. However, Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, will almost certainly have the ultimate say over the issue. The case is expected to continue for well over a year, perhaps much longer.
“It was very emotional watching the proceedings today and hearing things being said that have been in my heart for so long,” said Lisa Polyak who was in court with her partner of 24 years Gita Deane. “A favorable court decision could never change the love and commitment that we’ve made to each other and our two daughters, but it would certainly lift a huge burden to know that we no longer have to worry that our wishes will be ignored if something should happen to one of us.”
David Rocah, Staff Attorney of the ACLU of Maryland, Art Spitzer, Litigation Director of the ACLU of the National Capital Area and ACLU cooperating attorneys Andrew H. Baida and Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Baltimore law firm Rosenberg Martin Funk Greenberg, LLP are part of the legal team representing the plaintiffs.
Biographical information on all of the clients, the legal documents and other background materials including a FAQ about Deane and Polyak v. Conaway is available at http://www.equalitymaryland.org/marriageequality.htm and www.aclu.org/caseprofiles . ###
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