Maryland’s marriage equality bill passed by referendum this November will go into effect on Tuesday – the start of the New Year.
Many same-sex couples have already gotten their marriage certificates. Earlier this month, a decision by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler has allowed circuit court judges to issue postdated marriage certificates earlier this month. January 1 is the date these certificates will become active.
Gansler’s decision had another other important component: Same-sex couples married in other states cannot remarry here. All marriages are being treated equally under the law, and any other couple already married outside the state would not be able to be remarried in state either.
As much as this is a historic day for the state, and for civil rights in this country, it is only one step out of many.
First, federal law still does not recognize these marriages, due to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. This has a significant impact for Social Security and other benefits. Because of this, the IRS will still treat these couples as single for tax purposes.
Second, the state’s tax code is conforming, which means that the state follows the IRS’s rules unless stated otherwise. Therefore, same-sex couples will be treated as single for state tax purposes as well. These things could change soon, as the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as California’s Proposition 8, in the coming year.
Finally, the same-sex marriage “Question 6” only won with 52% of the vote this November, indicating that this issue is still very divisive among Marylanders. One prominent example of the opposition is the Discover Annapolis Tours trolley service, which has become a staple in the Annapolis nuptial industry. The owner of the service, Matt Grubbs, has decided to withdraw entirely from the industry rather than serve same-sex couples. Those who have refused to serve same-sex couples in other states have faced discrimination lawsuits, and Grubbs is avoiding all legal troubles by withdrawing his service entirely.
Grubbs has complained that the new law discriminates against people of faith, since although churches can refuse marriages to same-sex couples if it does not fit their beliefs, laymen have no such option without facing charges of discrimination.
Today, more people will be allowed to marry. Some will last lifetimes, like the 40-year marriage of my grandparents. That marriage concluded with my grandfather’s death after being cared for by my grandmother for 10 years, illustrating how valuable marriage is aside than just for procreation. Some other marriages will fail spectacularly. Above all, it will just be two people signing a contract, and it should be treated no differently than any other.