- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Activists on both side of the homosexual “marriage” issue are ready with legislation and additional lawsuits no matter which way the Maryland Court of Appeals rules on a pivotal case.

“Everybody is just waiting with bated breath,” said Sen. Janet Greenip, Anne Arundel County Republican. “The thing that bothers me is this is a very small minority trying to dictate how we do business for everybody.”

The appeals court’s seven judges heard arguments in December on whether they should allow homosexual “marriage” but have yet to rule on the case.

The Maryland Constitution advises judges to issue their opinion within 90 days of oral arguments but does not set a firm deadline. The court frequently issues opinions four months or later, after arguments.

Depending on how the court rules, both sides are prepared to file bills in the 2008 session.

Homosexual “marriage” supporters have drafted legislation for next year that would allow homosexuals to “marry” using the same system as Massachusetts, said Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland.

Marriage licenses in Massachusetts were amended to replace “husband” and “wife” with “Party A” and “Party B,” though the state’s highest court has mandated the Massachusetts legislature define marriage.

“While our efforts may be ramped up a little bit now, we view this as a multiyear campaign,” Mr. Furmansky said.

“Marriage” opponents have said they will file bills, as they have this year and previously, to amend the state constitution to define marriage as only between one man and one woman.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, “believes government should not define sacraments, but rather protect equal rights. And he favors civil unions as a reasonable compromise,” said Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for Mr. O’Malley, who is Catholic.

The case was appealed by the state after Baltimore Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock ruled that maintaining traditional marriage “is not a legitimate state interest” if it discriminates against homosexuals. The suit was brought by nine same-sex couples and one homosexual man seeking to “marry.” The lawsuit challenges a 1973 amendment to the state constitution that defines marriage as a union only between one man and one woman.

Delegate Don Dwyer Jr., Anne Arundel County Republican and routine sponsor of the bill that would define marriage as between one man and one woman, could not be reached for comment because he is out of the country.

“Whichever direction the court takes will be hotly contested next year,” said Maryland Catholic Conference Executive Director Richard Dowling. “There are few more electric issues than this.”

The Catholic Church opposes marriage between members of the same sex.

The Catholic Conference has taken a low-key approach on the issue but strongly opposes homosexual “marriage.”

“I’m not sure that at this point that our interest or any interests are served by throwing kerosene on a lit fire,” Mr. Dowling said.

Both sides also say the issue will compete for center stage in the 2008 General Assembly session, adding to severe budget pressures the state faces.

“I don’t envy the leaders of our state … whose agenda for next year is already crowded with big budget concerns and what many consider a health care crisis,” Mr. Dowling said.

Other homosexual “marriage” opponents say the issue should be decided by voters, not the courts, but that for now the only thing they can do is wait.

“We’re as prepared as we’re going to be,” said Rick Bowers, chairman of Defend Maryland Marriage.

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