Senate, Fearing an Entanglement of Church and State, Kills Divorce Bill

By Maryland Notebook
Sunday, March 18, 2007

After an emotional debate about marriage, women's rights and the separation of church and state, the Senate voted against a measure seeking to remove religious barriers that prevent spouses from remarrying after obtaining a civil divorce.

The bill failed on a 22 to 22 vote.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Lisa A. Gladden (D-Baltimore), argued that the measure was not about religion but "about fairness. It's a women's rights issue."

Gladden sponsored the bill for Orthodox Jewish women in her district who said they were unable to obtain a divorce because their husbands would not grant them one.

Under Jewish law, a civil divorce does not end a marriage. A woman must receive what is known as a "get" from her husband, and sometimes the husband will withhold the get, which makes it impossible for her to remarry as an Orthodox Jew.

The bill would have required couples who are getting divorced to file an affidavit saying they have agreed to drop religious barriers to remarriage.

Sen. Rona E. Kramer (D-Montgomery) said the bill could affect not just the Jewish faith but other religions.

Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery) said the bill was unconstitutional because "the entire purpose of this bill is religious . . . and it does entangle the state with religion."

-- Ovetta Wiggins

3 Controversial Bills Die in Committee

It was a bad week for controversial bills in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

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