- Civil marriage equality in effect at the state level since 2013. (Same-sex couples may legally marry.)
- Maryland was the first state in the nation to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, expressly banning same-sex marriage, in 1973.
- In the 1990’s the legislature failed to pass attempts to legalize marriage equality and attempts to ban it.
- Marriage equality was ratified by both the MD legislature in February 2012, and by popular vote in November 2012.
Legislation - Enacted
Civil Marriage Protection Act
Date Introduced: January 2011
- Some of the intense debate on this bill, between openly gay lawmakers and some African-American lawmakers,highlighted the differences in the interpretation of “civil rights.”
- Members of the legislature were subject to a great deal of lobbying by constituents with strong religious beliefs and by Roman Catholic clergy.
- Eventually the bill was bounced back to committee on 11 March 2011, not to be reconsidered until 2012.
- The bill was re-introduced on 23 January 2012.
- The new version of the bill contained “religious protections/freedom” language.
- To secure support from some lawmakers who desired to submit the law to public referendum, the bill was amended not to take effect until 1 January 2013, providing time for a ballot initiative.
- The bill was passed and Gov. O’Malley signed it on 1 March 2012.
- Between the time the governor signed the bill in March 2013 and when it was scheduled to take effect in January 2014, the public voted on Referendum Question 6 in November 2012 – see Ballot Initiatives Resolved below.
- The Civil Marriage Protection Act took effect on 1 January 2013.
Lawsuits - Resolved
Port v. Cowan
Case #: No. 69, September Term 2011, Maryland Court of Appeals
Date Filed: April 2012
Ruling Date: 18 May 2012
- Recognition of same-sex marriages from other states became precedent when the Maryland Court of Appeals agreed to hear a case from Prince George's County, where two women who were legally married in California had been denied a divorce they filed for, in 2010, by the circuit court.
- 18 May 18 2012, the court published a unanimous ruling in Port v. Cowan that validated the marriage of Jessica Port and Virginia Cowan because it said "no viable decision by the Court had deemed a valid foreign marriage to be 'repugnant'," even if the marriage was void or punishable as a crime were it performed in Maryland.
Conaway v. Deane & Polyak
Case #: No. 44 – September Term 2006, Maryland Court of Appeals
Date Filed: July 2004
Date of Appeal: 2006
Ruling Date: 18 September 2007
- Nine lesbian and gay couples and a gay widower filed this case in Maryland state court seeking the right to marry under the state constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection.
- January 2006, the trial court ruled in the plaintiffs' favor, holding that excluding same-sex couples from marriage discriminates on the basis of sex without a constitutionally sufficient government justification.
- The state appealed to the Maryland Court of Appeals.
- 1 September 2006. Lambda Legal submitted an Amicus Brief.
- In a 4 to 3 decision, the Court of Appeals ruled that the state could continue to treat committed same-sex couples as legal strangers, barring them from hundreds of family protections that the state provides through marriage.
Ballot Initiatives - Passed
Referendum Question 6
Purpose of Ballot Measure: The entire purpose of this referendum was to assure lawmakers and the public that citizens had had the opportunity to vote on the issue of marriage equality. See Civil Marriage Protection Act under Legislation Enacted above.
Date Passed: 6 November 2012
- The language of Referendum Question 6 informed voters that the Civil Marriage Protection Act would allow same-sex couples to obtain a civil marriage license, protect clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs, and affirm that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith.
- On 6 November 2012, the measure passed with 52.4% of the vote.
- Results of a statewide poll released 2 August 2012, conducted by Hart Research Associates, found 54 percent of Marylanders said they would vote for Referendum 76, the law that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Forty percent would vote against it. When they surveyed voters in March 2012, 51 percent said they would vote for the law, and 43 percent said they would vote against it. Hart polled 504 likely voters statewide from 24-28 July 2012. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. Support also went up amongst African-American likely voters statewide. Hart additionally surveyed 515 of these individuals, who went from opposing the referendum to upholding same-sex marriage (40 percent to 49 percent) to being evenly divided between support and opposition in March 2012 (44 percent to 45 percent). Poll Details