- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2003

There needs to be a legal review of same-sex civil unions in Maryland, House Speaker Michael E. Busch said yesterday.

He stopped short, however, of endorsing the unions.

“I think the civil law issues are a bit unclear today in Maryland,” Mr. Busch told The Washington Times. “I think you have to determine whether there is adequate direction.”

Asked whether he supports the trend of recognizing same-sex civil unions, he said companies in the state that offer domestic partner benefits to employees in same-sex relationships were doing a “good thing.”

“It is good that companies do that without a government mandate and a government policy,” he said. “I think that it is a positive benefit to the business.”

Under Maryland law, homosexuals may not marry, but they may adopt children.

Mr. Busch, Anne Arundel County Democrat, said he was concerned that same-sex couples who choose to adopt also have the ability to obtain domestic-partner benefits, such as health care.

“I do think there ought to be a clarification about what the law provides and does not provide,” he said.

Greenbelt last week joined Baltimore, Takoma Park and Montgomery County in offering employees in same-sex relationships the type of benefits offered to traditional families.

Montgomery County has been spending about $400,000 a year extending benefits to same-sex couples since 1999.

Maryland is considered friendly to its homosexual and transgender communities. Unlike almost 40 other states, Maryland has not passed a law prohibiting the recognition of same-sex unions of couples who move in from another jurisdiction. The state attorney general in 1999 also ordered law-enforcement officials to cease enforcement of the state’s sodomy law.

Virginia, which had a strong anti-sodomy law until June, was forced to drop enforcement after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law in Texas. InJuly, Virginia began providing low-interest mortgages to same-sex couples.

Internationally, the Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, along with the Netherlands and Belgium, recognize same-sex unions as akin to traditional families.

Vermont is the closest the United States has come to treating same-sex unions the same as traditional families. Massachusetts and New Jersey are considering revising their same-sex laws.

“I am not sure if it is a statewide issue or should be determined by a judge,” Mr. Busch said of Maryland’s existing same-sex laws. “I think there should be a hearing to determine what exactly does and does not exist.”

The administration ofGov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Republican, “opposes same-sex unions,” according to Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. Deleaver, who would not comment on Mr. Busch’s views.

“With no specific proposal to work from, it would be premature to comment,” she said.

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