Marriage Blow to Maryland

Activists disappointed, not discouraged, by Court of Appeals decision

by Yusef Najafi
Published on September 20, 2007, 12:00am | Comments

Mere hours after the Maryland Court of Appeals announced its decision Tuesday to uphold a 1973 state law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman only, a large crowd of activists and several Maryland General Assembly legislators gathered outside of St. George's Episcopal Church, in Glenn Dale, to regroup.

The Court made its much anticipated 4-3 vote Sept. 18, more than nine months after hearing oral arguments by attorneys from the state, defending the law, and from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland (ACLU-MD), in opposition. The ACLU-MD, along with Equality Maryland, was advocating on behalf of 19 plaintiffs challenging the law as discriminatory.

Dan Furmansky, executive director Equality Maryland led the early evening crowd through a simple chant:

''Equality!'' he yelled.

''Now!'' the crowd responded.

''I'm very angry,'' Furmansky said to the crowd. ''I'm very sad, but mostly I'm numb.... This is kind of my first opportunity to process and...feel the disappointment of this essentially four-year campaign that we waged.

''The couples in the lawsuit...and I have been on this journey together along with so many other people who have been to Annapolis, who've testified, who've had house parties, who have spoken with their legislators on this.

''The new year is the renewal time for us,'' he added. ''First we need to process the fact that the Court of Appeals in Maryland has just slapped us in the face.''

Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Montgomery Co.), who is gay, said the decision was a ''disappointment,'' but encouraged GLBT Marylanders to view it as just a ''road block'' in the struggle for equal rights.

Del. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George's Co.), who was unable to attend the event, released a statement that was read aloud:

''I will introduce and fight for a civil-marriage bill in the 2008 legislative session with my colleague, Sen. Gyndolyn Britt (D-Prince George's Co.), and our civil-rights allies in the Legislature. We will not stop in this quest until same-sex couples are treated as full and equal human beings in Maryland. Unlike the four judges on the Court of Appeals, I recognize that civil marriage is a civil right that embraces all Marylanders.''

Patrick Wojahn, who with partner Dave Kolesar was one of the couples in the case, reacted to the decision before those gathered.

''What struck me about the decision this morning is that it seemed the easy thing for the Court of Appeals to do,'' Wojahn said. ''But I wonder if it would have been so easy for them, had they actually met and known any of the thousands of committed lesbian and gay couples who I've met across the state, who have faced discrimination and hardship because they cannot get married.''

Furmansky concluded angrily, ''Four people came up with the most tortured, inane reasoning that you could possibly come up with to justify discrimination against our families.''