Gay marriage defeat leaves couples crestfallen

Alli Harper, right, and Jennifer Monti of Baltimore have been together since 2000 and are hoping to see same-sex marriage legalized in Maryland.
Alli Harper, right, and Jennifer Monti of Baltimore have been together since 2000 and are hoping to see same-sex marriage legalized in Maryland. (Michael Temchine)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ken Goodman's fondest wish was to return to Silver Spring with the man he has been with for 15 years and get married in front of his childhood friends and his parents.

Goodman and Michael Meyer, a hospital administrator, have wed three times before - in Canada, California and the District on the steps of the Supreme Court. Los Angeles is Goodman's home now, but Silver Spring is still his home town.

So Goodman, co-owner of an investment firm, listened on the Web on Friday as the Maryland House of Delegates debated same-sex marriage, his heart sinking when the bill was effectively killed for the year.

"I heard some people say they weren't comfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage," he said, describing himself as "crushed" and wavering between bitterness and sadness. "That word burns me. They weren't comfortable with the idea of our civil rights? How long are we supposed to wait for our civil rights for their comfort? How much longer?"

Across Maryland and beyond, gay and lesbian couples expressed dismay and disappointment at the defeat of same-sex marriage - and a determination to bring up the issue again next year. Because the state is relatively liberal, many had expected the bill to pass. Some had even allowed themselves to begin thinking about a venue for their nuptials and how many guests to invite.

"I was hoping to be even prouder to say, 'I'm a Marylander,' but I can't say that now," said Larry Burkhart, a nuclear engineer who followed the debate on Twitter from Paris, where he lives with a Frenchman he wants to marry and bring home to Rockville. "That's a big disappointment."

Nobody knows for certain how many Maryland couples are affected by the bill's defeat. In a statistic that experts say they think is low, the 2000 census counted 11,000 Maryland households headed by same-sex couples.

For now, same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions, including the District, are recognized by the state under an opinion issued last year by state Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D).

Some couples say that's good enough for now, and they will continue to wait for a legal same-sex marriage in Maryland.

"We'll be back again next year," said Jennifer Monti, 30, a Baltimore doctor who had a commitment ceremony with Alli Harper last year. The women have been talking about starting a family and wanted the legal protections and benefits that marriage provides.

"This stuff takes a long time," Monti said. "It hasn't been on the map for too long, and we made lots of progress already."

David Robinson, a meeting planner who lives in Montgomery County, said he and his partner of 15 years had started talking about the kind of wedding they wanted and who would officiate. They'll keep waiting, making sure they have their wills and medical powers of attorney updated.

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