A Maryland Circuit Court judge sided with nine gay couples Friday, ruling that the state's law defining marriage as being between a man and a woman violates the state's constitution.
It is the latest decision in an intense national debate over the rights of gays and lesbians to marry. The ruling in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City will not make Maryland gay couples immediately eligible for marriage licenses, however. Judge M. Brooke Murdock stayed the order pending an appeal, which the state attorney general's office filed right away.
Murdock's decision waded directly into the debate over gay marriage. "Although tradition and societal values are important, they cannot be given so much weight that they alone will justify a discriminatory statutory classification," the decision stated. "When tradition is the guise under which prejudice or animosity hides, it is not a legitimate state interest."
Thirteen states have adopted constitutional amendments outlawing gay marriage, 11 of which were approved in 2004.