Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Maryland lawmakers take up gay marriage bill | News Story on

Maryland lawmakers take up gay marriage bill | News Story on

By 365gay Newscenter Staff
03.11.2009 11:34am EDT

(Annapolis, Maryland) Today marks the beginning of two days of hearings on a bill that would allow gay couples to marry in Maryland.

Outside the Capitol, hundreds of supporters demonstrated, calling on lawmakers to approve the measure.

Called the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, the bill would allow civil marriages for gay couples while permitting churches opposed to same-sex marriage to refuse to perform weddings.

The bill is sponsored by openly gay Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr.. Madaleno and his partner have adopted two children.

In 2007, the state’s highest court upheld the law barring same-sex unions.

In a split ruling ,the majority opinion said that while the court agrees that marriage is a fundamental right, there is no fundamental right to marry someone of the same sex. The court ruled that defining marriage should be up to the legislature.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has proposed giving health, dental and prescription drug benefits to state employees’ domestic partners and their dependents in his Fiscal Year 2010 budget.

Last year, O’Malley signed two bills that benefit same-sex couples in the state.

The first gives domestic partners - gay or straight - medical and funeral decision-making rights. The second exempts domestic partners from paying property transfer taxes when one person dies.

But O’Malley has said he is opposed to same-sex marriage.

Republicans also oppose the marriage bill. Several GOP delegates have said they will attempt to bring in a proposal to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

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