by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff Posted: February 5, 2008 - 3:00 pm ET
Opposite-sex couples in Maryland would be denied civil marriages under legislation filed Tuesday in the legislature. The bill, proposed by Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D), would grant domestic partnerships to both same and opposite-sex couples. It would leave marriage to churches, synagogues and mosques to define and conduct.
The legislation would replace the word "marriage" with "valid domestic partnership" in the state's family law code.
"If people want to maintain a religious test for marriage, let's turn it into a religious institution," Raskin told the Washington Post.
Raskin's bill comes on the heels of legislation introduced in both houses of the legislature last month that would allow same-sex couples to marry.
Called the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act it would allow civil marriages for gay couples while permitting churches opposed to same-sex marriage to refuse to perform weddings.
Another bill would allow civil unions for same-sex couples. Equality Maryland called the bills exciting.
"The whole gamut is out there now," Carrie Evans, the groups policy director told 365gay.com.
"There is a menu of options for lawmakers to further the discussion."
Last September Maryland's highest court upheld the state 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.
Del. Todd L. Schuler (D) the sponsor of the bill that would end all civil marriage in Maryland said the idea for the legislation came out of the dissenting opinion from the high court which suggested that the state could get out of the marriage business altogether.
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) has not weighed in on the new bill, but has said he does not support same-sex marriage but would consider civil unions.
Republicans are opposed to all three choices.
Mark says: This makes a lot of sense to me. I have always felt that marriage is primarily a legal status, to which many people have attached a religious significance. Religion belongs in churches so if "marriage" is going to convey a religious significance, then a "marriage" ceremony should take place in a church. States should discontinue granting "marriage" licenses and commence the granting of domestic partnership licenses instead, since a domestic partnership is a legal status.
Domestic partnerships would be issued by states to those who wishes to connect themselves to another legally, while churches would issue marriage licenses to those who wish to connect themselves to another spiritually. Equal treatment to all citizens - it makes so much sense!