- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — A Republican delegate yesterday called for a referendum to clarify that marriage involves only a man and a woman one day after the General Assembly passed a bill giving “life partners” some rights once reserved for couples in traditional wedlock.

Delegate Don Dwyer Jr., Anne Arundel Republican, said he will get the referendum on the November 2006 ballot by gathering signatures on a petition to be circulated among churches and communities across the state.

Mr. Dwyer said the legislation, passed by the Democrat majority in the General Assembly, was tantamount to a Maryland civil union bill and an issue on which residents should vote.

“For that reason I plan to take that to referendum,” he said. “In Maryland, we don’t have the ability to proposition something into law, but we have the ability to overturn the will of the legislature by means of a referendum.”

The referendum would also pre-empt a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union to force Baltimore and four Maryland counties to accept same-sex “marriage.

“Through the organization of the churches, I believe that I have the ability to pull that off,” Mr. Dwyer said.

To get the referendum on the ballot, Mr. Dwyer has until June 30 to collect 51,185 signatures, or 3 percent of those who cast ballots for governor in 2002. As many as one-third of the signatures must be turned in by May 31.

The bill would go into effect July 1, but a successful petition drive would suspend it until after the 2006 general election.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, has not decided whether he will sign the “life partner” bill.

He supports granting unmarried couples decision-making rights on medical issues but opposes measures that would legitimize homosexual “marriage” or civil unions.

“Traditional marriage is traditional marriage,” Mr. Ehrlich said yesterday. “From our point of view, [homosexual ‘marriage’] is a non-discussion point.”

The bill allows heterosexuals and homosexuals to register with the state as “life partners” if both are at least 18 years old, live together and profess a relationship of mutual dependence.

Such partners also would have the right to accompany each other in ambulances, make decisions about the disposition of a deceased partner’s body and live together in the same room in a nursing home, according to the bill.

However, lawmakers have clearly stated the bill is intended to give homosexual couples the same rights as married couples in matters of hospital visits and medical decisions.

Critics say such rights already are available to unmarried couples through existing legal arrangements and that the bill presented a foothold for advocates of civil unions or homosexual “marriage” in the state.

Delegate John Adams Hurson, Montgomery Democrat and lead sponsor of the bill, said making a medical decision and a hospital visit is a “human right.”

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