The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Piecemealing Marriage in Maryland

The last few months have been eventful ones for our family, as we were devastated by the loss of one baby and then blessed with the arrival of another; Dylan. When I look at Parker—the little boy he’s grown into, and the great big brother he’s already showing himself to be—and I look at Dylan—how vulnerable he is and how he’s changing and getting stronger every day—I’m amazed that some people like the Maryland Court of Appeals would deny my family equal rights and protections because the hubby and I did not and could not conceive either of the two children we will spend the next 18 years or so raising, and the rest of our lives loving.

“Looking beyond the fact that any inquiry into the ability or willingness of a couple actually to bear a child during marriage would violate the fundamental right to marital privacy recognized in Griswold, 381 U.S. at 484-86, 493, 85 S. Ct. at 1681, 14 L. Ed. 2d 510, the fundamental right to marriage and its ensuing benefits are conferred on opposite-sex couples not because of a distinction between whether various opposite-sex couples actually procreate, but rather because of the possibility of procreation.”
-Judge Glenn Harrell, Jr.

Now, the court ruled that my family doesn’t have the right to marriage equality, but basically left it to the Maryland legislature. And even though the proposed gay marriage ban died in the legislature in 2006 and marriage equality legislation won has early support this year, it’s unlikely that anything will pass this year.

But top lawmakers say it’s unlikely the question of same-sex unions will advance this session.

“Both sides are so passionate about it, nothing will move,” predicted Senate Republican Leader David Brinkley.

House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said in recent interviews that they doubted gay marriage or civil union bills will make it to a vote this year.

But something might make it to a vote, if the piecemeal strategy works.

Advocates and lawmakers say their goal is indisputably a law granting full marriage rights to same-sex couples. But as they seek such a law in the General Assembly session that starts Wednesday, they plan to also propose legislation that would give them rights to property ownership, inheritance, medical and end-of-life decisions and other benefits of marriage.

“What we decided to do is pursue a handful of bills that take care of some of the urgent needs of our families,” said Carrie Evans, director of policy and planning for Equality Maryland, Maryland’s leading gay rights group.

…A possible compromise, to pursue a bill granting gay couples the civil unions that are now legal in six states, fizzled. “In the end, we decided that marriage equality is what we want,” said Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), who is openly gay. “We need to educate people as to why it is marriage and not civil unions that we want.”

So the advocates’ strategy has shifted to parallel goals of a same-sex marriage bill that could take years to get approved and more piecemeal steps. They include legislation to exempt a surviving domestic partner from inheritance taxes on joint property and to eliminate recordation and transfer taxes imposed on partners when they are added to home deeds. Advocates also want to ensure that same-sex partners have the same rights as spouses to hospital and nursing-home visits, organ donation and accompanying a partner on an ambulance ride.

“These protections we hear time and again from our community are huge, everyday needs,” Evans said. But she cautioned that the gay rights community is treading carefully. It does not want to establish “parallel institutions” for same-sex couples, she said. Abbruzzese said the governor would “look favorably” on legislation that would enhance legal protections for gay couples.

Those are protections I’d be happy to have but, as with the other rights and protections of marriage, they are benefits and protections that are designed to keep a family afloat during stressful times, such as the death or illness of a parent/partner or the loss of a job. The six or seven that will be individually pursued in Maryland are more protections than our family has now, but far far less than the family across the street from us, with a married mother and father, have.

Aside from the obvious, there’s not much difference between our families. Though they have two boys, and we have two boys, they made their own and we adopted ours. Is that, as the Maryland Court of Appeals seems to believe, really a valid reason why my family—the hubby, myself, Parker and Dylan—deserve less than the same treatment, the same benefits and protections, as any other family in our neighborhood, in our state, or in fact in the country?

Most people already know how they’d answer that. It’s encouraging that activists in Maryland know exactly how they’d answer. Because piecemealing marriage is a bit like trying to move a mountain with a teaspoon. It doesn’t work. Either you have to to the mountain or the mountain, somehow, must come to you.


  1. Judge Harrell’s reasoning, besides being entirely argumentative, was expressly repudiated by the Supreme Court in Turner v. Safely, 482 U.S. 78 (1987).

  2. Right. It’s not “reasoning”, it’s ew-they-have-butt-sex wrapped up in legalese.