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Maryland Judge Rejects Ban on Same-Sex Unions

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

A Maryland judge has ruled that a state law that bans same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. But Judge M. Brooke Murdoch says she won't let couples get married while the attorney general appeals her decision. NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty has the story.

BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY: The ruling, if it survives on appeal, will change everything for couples like Gita Dean and her partner, Lisa Polyak. They've been together for 25 years. They have two daughters through artificial insemination, and have been through years of frustration over things like health insurance or medical emergencies. So imagine their reaction when Judge Murdoch ruled today that same-sex couples deserve the protections of marriage.

GITA DEAN: I don't know if it's elation, it feels more like a relief.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Gita Dean.

DEAN: When my child goes into the hospital, I would be able to have access to my child, even if it's my non-biological child. If Lisa were in the hospital, I would have access to her.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Ken Cho, their attorney at the ACLU, says this is a major victory. Now Maryland joins four other states as places where judges have ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. Only Massachusetts allows them to wed. Cho says Murdoch agreed that tradition does not justify discrimination.

ACLU: The court then went on to hold the law doesn't have even a rational basis, and therefore would fail even if it were not sex discrimination.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: The judge wrote, "Although tradition and societal values are important, when tradition is the guise under which prejudice or animosity hides, it is no a legitimate state interest." Matt Staver of Liberty Council, a law firm that opposes gay marriage, says the judge overreached.

MATT STAVER: The judged ruled there is no conceivable or rational relationship between male-female marriage and procreation, and the best interest of children. That particular aspect of the ruling is so extreme, it makes it easier to reverse this case on appeal.

BRADLEY HAGERTY: Which the Maryland Attorney General has said he will do.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty is the religion correspondent for NPR, reporting on the intersection of faith and politics, law, science and culture. Her New York Times best-selling book, "Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality," was published by Riverhead/Penguin Group in May 2009. Among others, Barb has received the American Women in Radio and Television Award, the Headliners Award and the Religion Newswriters Association Award for radio reporting.