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Gays laud Maryland decision to recognize same-sex marriages from other places

Barbara Kenny and Tibby Middleton of Frederick, partners for 44 years, might get married in the District.
Barbara Kenny and Tibby Middleton of Frederick, partners for 44 years, might get married in the District. (By Rebecca Drobis For The Washington Post)
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The couple said Gansler's decision will give them additional rights to inheritance and property -- as well as less tangible benefits.

"It just gives the relationship the dignity it deserves," Ross said. "You just feel more like a first-class citizen."

Opponents in the legislature, including Republicans, socially conservative Democrats and several African American lawmakers, blasted the decision. Del. Don H. Dwyer Jr. (R-Anne Arundel) said he is preparing impeachment charges against Gansler for "violating his oath."

"He has usurped the authority of the legislature," Dwyer said Thursday, adding that Gansler should have deferred to an attorney general's declaration in 2004 that the state would not recognize same-sex unions. Dwyer said Gansler should have been ineligible to make the decision because he testified in 2008 to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in favor of recognizing such unions.

At a news conference Wednesday, Gansler said he could not defer to the 2004 decision because so much legislation on same-sex marriage has been created or changed since then. "We spent an enormous amount of time on this opinion because it's really new ground," he said.

Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery), another openly gay member of the General Assembly, said she planned to first test the decision by taking her partner, Deborah, whom she married in California, to a state human resources office to have her designation changed from "beneficiary" to "spouse" on her state pension. Mizeur said that should she die, the change could have tax benefits for her spouse.

Several other lawmakers, including some socially conservative Democrats, are still seething about the decision.

"I am still stunned that he would issue such an amorphous, confusing opinion. It's a bucket of warm spit," said Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. (D-Baltimore County), who earlier this month attempted to persuade a House committee to support a bill that would explicitly ban the recognition of same-sex marriages from elsewhere. "This opinion has no standing in law, will be overturned, and gives false hope to the gay and lesbian lobbyist community."

Middleton said she and Kenny are now considering marrying in the District.

"People would say to us, 'Go to Canada, or one of the other states,' and we said, 'Well, what is the point' " if the marriage would not be recognized?

Now that they can marry near their home, with their friends and colleagues in attendance, "there's a real possibility that we will do that."

If they do, she vowed of the wedding, "It will be an affair. It will be an affair."

Staff writer Aaron C. Davis contributed to this report.

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