Update: March 4, 2011, 10:49 a.m. Del. Alston’s position has been clarified -- she would end marriage in Maryland and replace it with civil unions for all. This certainly negates the separate-but-equal issue, but otherwise does not really resolve much of anything.

Original post: As a follow-up to her decision to reconsider supporting a marriage equality bill that she co-sponsored, Del. Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George’s) says that she has found the answer -- an amendment that would offer civil unions instead. “I have what I believe to be a solution,” Alston reportedly said.

Civil Unions is not an altogether new solution. A hundred years ago we referred to such solutions as “separate but equal.” Under the guise of separate but equal, African Americans were entitled to receive the very same public services and accommodations as whites -- public schools, bathrooms, water fountains -- but states were free to provide different facilities for each. The Supreme Court endorsed the policy in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson, and six decades of legal segregation followed -- until a later court, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, acknowledged what everyone knew: Separate but equal was anything but equal.

If Maryland decides as a matter of law that heterosexual couples can marry but homosexual couples must enter civil unions, then it will be taking the coward’s way out and declaring that separate but equal is an acceptable public policy. The state would be living up to the legacy of native son Roger Taney, author of the infamous Dred Scott decision. But is that the legacy Del. Alston, or any other member of the assembly, wants to leave?

Todd Eberly blogs at The FreeStaterBlog. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.