- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2006

ANNAPOLIS — A Republican lawmaker yesterday tried to remove a Baltimore Circuit Court judge for striking down the state’s 33-year-old ban on homosexual “marriage,” despite requests from party leaders to take no action.

“We are guardians of the public trust,” said Delegate Don Dwyer Jr., Anne Arundel County Republican. “It is our duty, our obligation and our responsibility to hold the courts accountable when the court has violated the trust of the public.”

Mr. Dwyer, who has led Republicans is their unsuccessful attempt to pass a constitutional amendment in Maryland banning same-sex “marriage,” charged Baltimore Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock with usurping legislative authority, misbehavior in office, willful neglect of duty and incompetency.

House Minority Leader George C. Edwards said he asked Mr. Dwyer not to introduce the legislation until the state’s appeal of the decision is complete.

“But he feels strongly about it, and I encourage people to do what they want,” said Mr. Edwards, Western Maryland Republican. “Just so people know: This is not a Republican Caucus push.”

Republican leaders also said the legislation has no chance of succeeding in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly.

A Baltimore Circuit Court spokeswoman said using the legislature’s power to remove a judge because of a disagreement over a ruling would “weaken our court system and interfere with its ability to provide access to justice for all.”

Judge Murdock declined to comment.

She ruled Jan. 20 in favor of 19 homosexual men and women who challenged the state’s 1973 law that defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman. The judge said the law violates the Maryland Constitution’s protection against discrimination based on sex.

The ruling will not take effect while the state appeals.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said Mr. Dwyer’s attack on the judge would hurt the Republican Party.

Mr. Dwyer “creates a clear distinction between what Democrats stand for and what Republicans stand for,” said Mr. Busch, Anne Arundel County Democrat.

Mr. Dwyer’s attempt to remove the judge is officially called an address and could be killed in the House Judiciary Committee as early as tomorrow.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. would have to remove the judge if the address wins support of two-thirds of both chambers. The legislature has exercised such power only once — in 1860 when Judge Henry Stump was removed for being drunk and falling asleep on the bench.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, does not support the effort to remove Judge Murdock.

“The governor agrees that the [judge’s] decision was wrong,” said Paul E. Schurick, the governor’s communications director. “But he believes the best way to settle this issue is with a constitutional amendment on this year’s ballot. Let the people decide.”

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