Monday, December 04, 2006

Maryland Court of Appeals hears argument on gay marriage

The Maryland Court of Appeals will hear argument today, December 4, at 10 A.M. E.S.T. on whether state law prohibits gay marriage.

The argument will be carried live on the Web. The court website warns that the live webcast of the argument is part of a pilot project and may suffer glitches.

The case is Conway v. Deane, No. 44 September term 2006. Briefs in the case are available here.

The plaintiffs are gay and lesbian couples who sued county officials who refused to give them marriage licenses. Maryland passed a law back in 1973 declaring marriage as between one man and one woman. In recent years, though, Maryland has also passed laws prohibiting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. The plaintiffs are arguing that the law is unconstitutional under the state constitution.

A trial court in Baltimore ruled for the plaintiffs back in January, finding that the law was discriminatory. The Court of Appeals -- Maryland's highest court -- took a direct appeal from the county officials who were sued.

The Washington Post story gives the case a human feel by focusing on a 73-year-old former civil rights activist who is one of the plaintiffs along with his partner of 28 years.

I don't know enough about the Maryland Court of Appeals to call this case -- I don't follow their rulings closely enough to know anything about the justices. But I do recall being surprised by their rulings from time to time. My guess? Anything could happen.


Anonymous said...

The Circuit COurt ruling being appealed is weak and is likely to be overturned, I'm afraid. It did not address the discrimination aspects in a compelling way and neglected the equal protection aspects in its ruling. It did not even try to present that the right to maintain whatever kind of personal relationship one wants is a basic, if unenumerated, right.

Why can't someone use the US 9th Amendment (and in this case the MD Declaration of Rights Art. 45) to demonstrate that legislatures can not take away the right of individual choice (in any number of issues) simply because it is not specified an an enumerated right in the Constitution?

Mark in MD

Nancy Jane Moore said...

Thanks for the additional legal commentary, even though it's not encouraging. I wouldn't be surprised if both the lawyers and the trial court tried to err on the side of keeping the ruling pretty narrow -- maybe too narrow. Lawyers tend to be conservative in raising issues of rights.
I hope that those bringing legal cases for gay marriage are following the example of pioneering civil rights lawyers Charles Houston and Thurgood Marshall and developing a long-term, coordinated legal strategy.