Marylanders debate same-sex marriage
When Lisa and Katie Simmons-Barth were planning their wedding, they often encountered the same dilemma. The same-sex couple wanted to sign-up for several businesses’ gift registries, but when they went to enter their names, they often were asked for a husband and bride’s name.
“But we were both the bride,” Lisa Simmons-Barth said.
The couple scouted across Baltimore until they discovered companies that would best serve their needs, which they said was a hunt.
“Sometimes people would be like, ‘oh, a gay wedding? I’ve been to one of those before,” Katie Simmons-Barth said. “It was a different experience.”
Eventually Lisa, who works at Towson as an Assistant Director in Housing and Residence Life, and Katie, who is the marketing and retail services manager for the University store, married in 2010 in D.C.
“I was … sure of myself I wasn’t going to feel different, what could be different, we were living as though we were married,” Lisa Simmons-Barth said.
“I was wrong, it mattered to me a lot more than I thought it would, that our family was there and that they were a part of it. And I look at her differently now.”
While the couple of 10 years is now married, their legal partnership is not yet obtainable in Maryland. But Question 6, which will appear on Maryland’s ballot Nov. 6, would allow same-sex couples like the Simmons-Barths to obtain a civil marriage license beginning Jan. 1, 2013.
A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling in May stated that 57 percent of Marylanders supported the law, while 37percent were against it.
2012 alumna Missy Humms said that same-sex couples are consenting adults and should be allowed to make their own decisions.
“Ultimately I support marriage equality because I don’t think we should limit people and their love,” she said. “Marriage is currently a contract you and a partner have with the state. You may have religious parts and vows – but when it comes down to it, this is a state contract.”
Senior Ron Ozarowski said he does not believe same-sex relationships should be defined under the umbrella of “marriage.”
“I believe that the rights that are afforded to committed heterosexual married couples should be extended to committed homosexual couples, but I do not agree that with the extension of these rights we should redefine the institution of marriage,” he said. “The institution of marriage is a timeless institution. We should not deviate from the institution’s timeless definition which states that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service does not allow same-sex couples to file joint federal income tax returns because the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.’
This law would entitle the couples to the financial and social benefits marriage provides in the state, including various tax breaks.
Same-sex partners, or any children they may adopt, currently cannot register under each other’s health insurance policy. This can be problematic in cases of short and long-term medical complications.
Despite that the Simmons-Barths’ marriage is legally recognized in Maryland, they said because Question 6 has not yet passed, they still take great measures in case of a medical emergency.
Katie Simmons-Barth has carried a notarized document in her wallet since 2007 that states Lisa can make informed medical decisions.
“I have friends who carry thick legal-sized envelope pack where all their documents are there, all their medical decisions are there, all their legal paperwork, anything that ties them together.” she said. And if they’re going out of town for a weekend, they ask ‘do you have our medical-decision making package with you?’ My straight friends don’t have to do that. They have that privilege all the time.”
The House approved the bill 72–67 this year, adding the condition that states clergy of any religious sect would be protected from performing any marriage ceremony that is against their beliefs.
Richard Cook is a parishioner at St. Matthew Catholic Church and a member of Catholics for Marriage Equality, an organization that, despite the doctrine of the Catholic church, advocates marriage inclusiveness.
He said that same-sex couples have the right to marry and that the traditions of the church are not progressive.
“I’m not troubled by the hierarchy’s position on this because the distinction I make is that what happens within the four walls of the parish, which the Bishops certainly regulate and what happens in the polling booth is completely different.”
Several campus organizations, including the Center for Student Diversity and the Department of Civic Engagement have promoted religious and political education about the referendum item.
Sam Hubbard, the Student Government Association’s Director of Diversity organized the “Marriage Equality for All!” event Oct. 9, which featured individuals discussing the pros and cons of same-sex marriage.
Some on the panel said that the battle for same-sex marriage is one that has waged for too long.
Mickey Dehn, a lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences, who identifies as transgender, said that too many resources have been funneled into promoting same-sex marriage.
“It is has been a giant resource suck in every sense of the word for every other Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender issue,” he said
Almost $44 million dollars was raised in opposition to Proposition 8, a California constitutional amendment passed in 2008 that states marriage is only legally recognized between a man and woman, according to a report generated by the Los Angeles Times. $38 million was raised to support the ban of same-sex marriage.
Funds like these, Dehn said, could have been distributed to other organizations, such as the Human Rights Campaign, that are fighting for equal employment rights and LGBT hate-crime prevention.
If approved, same-sex marriage could provide Maryland’s economy with a projected $3.2 million gain annually from increases in sales and tax revenue from weddings and wedding-related tourism, according to a study conducted by the Williams Institute, a research arm of University of California’s School of Law.
The Institute explored budgetary information from the seven states that have already approved same-sex marriage: Iowa, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Washington, Vermont and Massachusetts, as well as D.C.
To vote on Question 6, visit your local polling station, or request an absentee ballot. Deadline is Oct. 30.