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Equality Maryland Update - Same Sex Marriage Issues in courts


ACLU Urges Maryland Court to Strike Down Law Barring Same-Sex Couples from Marriage Protections


August 30, 2005

Paul Cates, (212) 549-2568
Cell, (917) 566-1294

Meredith Curtis, (410) 889-8550 ext. 115
Cell, (410) 274-1671

Dan Furmansky, Equality Maryland
(301) 587-7500
Cell, (301) 461-4900

 BALTIMORE – The American Civil Liberties Union today asked a Maryland circuit court to strike down a state law than bars same-sex couples from marriage and the hundreds of family protections afforded to married couples.

“The Maryland constitution requires that the state treat all Marylanders equally,” said Ken Choe, a Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project who argued the case.  “And yet, despite the fact that lesbian and gay people make the same kinds of commitments to their partners and children that straight people make, the state denies them numerous protections that keep families afloat during difficult times.  The state cannot justify such unequal treatment.”

The ACLU appeared before the Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge M. Brooke Murdock on behalf of nine same-sex couples who have been denied marriage licenses by the state, as well as a gay widower, many of whom were present in court.  Equality Maryland worked hand-in-hand with the ACLU to bring the lawsuit.

“Our children need the same family protections that all families need,” said Alvin Williams, who along with his partner of seven years Nigel Simon, is raising three children who previously were in the Maryland foster care system.  “I can’t understand why the state would want to deny them the security of knowing that their family has a safety net should we fall upon hard times.”

There is broad support within the state’s religious community for marriage for same-sex couples.  More than 100 religious leaders from throughout the state signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the right of lesbian and gay people to marry.  State civil rights organizations and one of the state’s leading child welfare organizations also filed briefs supporting marriage for same-sex couples.

“Since this case was filed, more and more Marylanders have come to realize that it is unfair to bar lesbian and gay families from marriage,” said Dan Furmansky, Executive Director of Equality Maryland, the state’s LGBT rights advocacy group.  “Denying same-sex couples marriage protections, such as the ability of partners to make medical decisions for each other during medical emergencies, hurts families and ultimately the state.”   

It is unknown when the court will issue its ruling.  However, Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, will almost certainly have the ultimate say over the issue.  The case is expected to continue for well over a year, perhaps much longer. 

“It was very emotional watching the proceedings today and hearing things being said that have been in my heart for so long,” said Lisa Polyak who was in court with her partner of 24 years Gita Deane.  “A favorable court decision could never change the love and commitment that we’ve made to each other and our two daughters, but it would certainly lift a huge burden to know that we no longer have to worry that our wishes will be ignored if something should happen to one of us.” 

David Rocah, Staff Attorney of the ACLU of Maryland, Art Spitzer, Litigation Director of the ACLU of the National Capital Area and ACLU cooperating attorneys Andrew H. Baida and Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Baltimore law firm Rosenberg Martin Funk Greenberg, LLP are part of the legal team representing the plaintiffs. 

Biographical information on all of the clients, the legal documents and other background materials including a FAQ about Deane and Polyak v. Conaway is available at and   


From : "Equality Maryland" <> 
To : "M. AnnaMarie Arnow" <>

Subject : Maryland Religious Leaders Join Together to Support Marriage for Same-Sex Couples
Date : Mon, 29 Aug 2005 21:46:39 GMT
Maryland Religious Leaders Join Together to Support Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

Friend-of-the-Court Brief Filed by Clergy Urges Court to
Provide Marriage Protections for All Families

August 29, 2005

Paul Cates, Communications Director, ACLU
(212) 549-2568
Cell, (917) 566-1294

Dan Furmansky, Executive Director, Equality Maryland
Cell, (301)461-4900

BALTIMORE –Religious leaders from throughout the state convened today at a Baltimore church to express their support for providing same-sex couples with the legal protections of marriage   The gathering took place on the eve of a hearing on the constitutionality of Maryland law that bars same-sex couples from marriage.  The lawsuit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union with the support of Equality Maryland, the state’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, was filed on behalf of nine same-sex couples and a recently widowed man. 

“It’s inherently unfair to me that members of my congregation who attend services every Sunday with their children are forced to go without protections that my wife and I take for granted,” said Andrew Foster Connors, Minister of Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, where the event was held, and where plaintiffs Lisa Polyak and Gita Dean are members.  “While religious groups will always be free to marry who they please, I welcome the day when I will be able to marry committed couples like Lisa and Gita.” 

The event was attended by more than 40 religious leaders representing wide range of religions and denominations, including Baptist, Conservative Rabbis, Methodist, Lutherans and Catholics.   Following brief remarks by Rev. Connors, Rev. Anthony McCarthy of Unity Fellowship Church of Baltimore, Rabbi Bradd Boxmann of Har Sinai Congregation in Owings Mills, Rev. Dr. John Deckenback, Conference Minister of the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ, and Rev. Victoria R. Sirota of Church of the Holy Nativity in Baltimore, the leaders signed a joint statement supporting the ability of same-sex couples to marry. 

“As I’ve seen firsthand many times in my congregation, gay and lesbian couples make lasting commitments to each other, build families together and take responsibility for each other just like heterosexual couples,” said Rev. John R. Deckenback, the Conference Minister of the Central Atlantic Conference United Church of Christ.  “It’s unfair for our state to treat them differently.  They need the same kinds of protections for their families that others rely on.”

Many of the religious leaders present also signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief that was filed in support of the ACLU’s lawsuit seeking to strike down Maryland law that bars same-sex couples from marriage.  The brief notes that while constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion protect religious organizations from having to perform or recognize marriages they oppose, there are many religious leaders and organizations that welcome to opportunity to perform religious marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. 

“The issue of marriage for same-sex couples has stirred a healthy debate among religious leaders and scholars,” said Rev. Anthony McCarthy of Unity Fellowship Church in Baltimore. “Contrary to some of the rhetoric you hear, marriage has always been an evolving institution.  In biblical times, men were free to have as many wives as they could afford to buy.  Today, marriage is an institution designed to protect families, and lesbian and gay couples and their children need those protections just like everyone else.”

A hearing in the lawsuit will take place before the Baltimore City Circuit Court on August 30, 2005 at the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse.  The court could issue a decision at any time following the hearing.  However, it will likely be the state’s highest court, The Court of Appeals, which has the final say in the matter.

A copy of the friend-of-the court brief and the joint statement signed by the religious leaders today is available at,, and


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