- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers said yesterday that it will challenge a Baltimore judge’s decision to bar them from joining the legal fight against an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit aimed at forcing Baltimore and four Maryland counties to accept homosexual “marriage.”

The group of eight lawmakers — seven Republicans and one Democrat — was rebuffed by Baltimore Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdoch, who ruled that the lawmakers could not join the city of Baltimore and the counties of Dorchester, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s and Washington in their battle to fend off the ACLU lawsuit.

“The other seven members who have signed on the motion don’t even know that we have been denied yet, so we will notify them,” said Delegate Donald H. Dwyer Jr., Anne Arundel Republican. He indicated that the legislators will immediately start formulating a response to the decision, whether that means filing an appeal or a friend-of-the-court brief.

Another member of the group, Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr., Baltimore County Democrat, agreed.

“I will support an appeal or friend-of-the-court brief” at the very least, said Mr. Burns, who also is a minister. “It is important to me, because [homosexual “marriage”] goes against everything … that is socially correct; it goes against everything economically correct; it goes against everything that is morally correct; it goes against everything that is educationally correct. This is not thinking outside of the box. It’s jumping in a barrel.

“Because the problem is a lot of the judges are so very liberal and sometimes you wonder what their persuasions are,” he said.

Judge Murdoch ruled on Sept. 17 that Mr. Burns, Mr. Dwyer and the others in the group — Delegate Herb McMillan, Anne Arundel Republican; Delegate Joseph C. Boteler III, Baltimore County Republican; Delegate Christopher B. Shank, Washington Republican; and Sens. Andrew P. Harris, Baltimore County Republican; Alexander X. Mooney, Frederick Republican; and Janet Greenip, Anne Arundel Republican — could not be co-defendants in the ACLU case.

The judge wrote in a one-page order that an “intervention would unduly delay and prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the original parties.”

She also ruled against two other parties seeking a similar inclusion in the suit.

Dan Furmansky, executive director of homosexual-rights advocacy group Equality Maryland, lauded the decision.

“I can’t say I am surprised the motions to intervene were denied, since these legislators were grasping at straws,” Mr. Furmansky said.

In July, the ACLU filed the lawsuit against Baltimore and the four counties, saying the state law that denies same-sex couples the right to “marry” is a violation of constitutional guarantees of equality.

Maryland, like Virginia, does not recognize same-sex “marriages” performed in other states and defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of nine Maryland same-sex couples and a Hagerstown man whose male companion recently died, seeks to declare the state law discriminatory. It also asks the court to prohibit court clerks from refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., a Democrat, has said he welcomes a court opinion.

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, has said he would sign a defense-of-marriage act.

“The ACLU simply lost their way,” Mr. Ehrlich said. “It’s simply the ACLU and their far-left agenda.”

Earlier this year in Virginia, Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, tried to soften the Republican-controlled legislature’s amendment to the state’s Affirmation of Marriage Act, which prohibits the state from recognizing same-sex civil unions performed in other states.

Dyana Mason, executive director of homosexual-rights advocacy group Equality Virginia, said her organization plans a challenge to the amendment, which bans civil unions and any “partnership contracts” or other arrangements between homosexuals.

“We want to make sure we file on what we know we can win,” she said. “And rushing to court is not always the best solution.”

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