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Statement in Support of HB 90: Invalidity of Same-Sex Marriages Performed in Other States

By Mary Ellen Russell, Executive Director

House Judiciary Committee (01/28/2010)

This statement, in support of House Bill 90, is offered on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops serving Maryland from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington. The measure would make explicit in Maryland law a premise that we believe already exists in our state statute: Maryland’s law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman precludes recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

The Catholic Church’s support for public policies that uphold the state’s current legal definition of marriage rests on the recognition that only a man and a woman are capable of bringing children – our society’s next generation – into the world. The special status given that relationship by religious and civil communities throughout time and cultures has been repeatedly upheld by the majority of voters in 31 states, most recently Maine and California; and by state legislatures, most recently New Jersey and New York. To date, it has also been upheld by our state’s highest court, and by our own state legislature.

Any change to that law, as the Maryland Court of Appeals noted in its 2007 Conaway v. Deane decision, properly belongs to the Maryland legislature and to the people whose interests they have been elected to represent. The legalization of same-sex marriage in a small number of other states, and the prospect of its legalization in our neighboring jurisdiction, the District of Columbia, provides no legitimate legal cause for granting recognition in Maryland to those marriages. To do so would clearly violate Maryland’s current marriage statute, and would undermine the right of the General Assembly and the people of Maryland to determine Maryland’s public policy on this critically important issue.

The question of how the state of Maryland defines marriage has been, and continues to be, one of the most controversial public policy issues debated by the General Assembly and the people who elected them. House Bill 90 provides an added measure of assurance to the people of Maryland that the decisions of out-of-state courts or legislatures cannot, and should not, provide grounds for usurping the legitimate democratic process in our state for deciding this issue.