Maryland’s attorney general issued an opinion Wednesday determining that, under current law, the state could recognize gay “marriages” performed out-of-state.
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler addressed the opinion to state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., an open homosexual, who had asked whether such recognition would be feasible.
“You have asked whether those marriages may be recognized under State law. The answer to that question is clearly ‘yes,’” wrote Gansler in the 53-page opinion.
A footnote emphasizes that, “An Attorney General opinion is not itself the law of Maryland in the same sense as a statute enacted by the Legislature or court decision elaborating the common law or construing a statute.”
“Rather,” it continues, “it is an interpretation of the statutory or common law that can guide a client agency and may be persuasive to a court reviewing agency action based on the opinion. … Thus, what we say in this opinion is a prediction, not a prescription, as to the how the Court would approach this issue under current law.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who has not explicitly endorsed same-sex “marriage,” said in a statement that his administration would be “guided” by Gansler’s opinion.
The opinion sparked a flurry of strong reactions on both sides of the issue. Several lawmakers, including Democrats, reacted angrily to the opinion, and dismissed its relevance.
“I am still stunned that he would issue such an amorphous, confusing opinion,” Democrat Del. Emmett Burns Jr., an African-American Baptist minister and traditional marriage supporter, told the Washington Post.
“It’s a bucket of warm spit.”
Republican Del. Don H. Dwyer Jr told local news that he would work to have Gansler impeached, saying the attorney general “has betrayed the trust of the citizens of the state of Maryland by usurping the authority of the General Assembly and he’s [going to] be held accountable for that.”
Other Democrat lawmakers complained about the opinion’s timing, which could invite voter backlash against their party as lawmakers head into election season. “In my opinion, it couldn’t have been worse timing,” Del. Galen R. Clagett said of the opinion, according to The Gazette of Maryland.
The National Organization for Marriage criticized the decision for trampling on Maryland’s own law, which declares only marriage between a man and a woman valid.
“This is an outrageous example of running roughshod over the rights of the people of Maryland in pursuit of a private political agenda,” said NOM Executive Director Brian Brown.
The Catholic bishops of Maryland issued a statement taking “strong exception” to Gansler’s opinion and urging action against it. While the bishops wrote that, “We respect the dignity of homosexual persons and roundly reject all unjust discrimination against them,” they acknowledged that the opinion “demonstrates a fundamental disregard for the nature and purpose of marriage and its impact on society, as well as for the expressed will of the legislature and previous attorney general opinions.”
Maryland’s House Judiciary Committee last month gave an unfavorable report on a bill that would ban both performance and recognition of same-sex “marriage.” A bill legalizing same-sex “marriage,” due for a hearing in House and Senate committees next week, is not expected to gain much momentum.
The District of Columbia passed a similar law recognizing out-of-state same-sex “marriage” last year, shortly before approving a measure redefining marriage altogether.