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What Maryland law says about marriage

March 28, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

An increasing number of gay people had been asking for marriage licenses. It was time for Maryland's attorney general to get involved.

State law and jurisprudence offered bits and pieces of gender guidance, such as a reference to a "widow" possibly marrying a "widower" and an 1828 court case that mentioned "man and woman."

So, the attorney general used anatomy to bolster his opinion that only a man and a woman may make up a wedded couple.

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"The Maryland law imposes, as a requirement of physical condition necessary for a valid marriage, that the parties be capable, at the time of the marriage, of normal sexual intercourse," Attorney General Francis B. Burch and Assistant Attorney General Francis X. Pugh wrote jointly in an opinion.

It was 1972.

In their written opinion, Burch and Pugh went on to cite an 1870 case that delved further:

"Whatever differences of opinion may have arisen as to the legal definition of impotence, it is well settled that if by reason of malformation or organic defect existing at the time of the marriage, there cannot be natural and perfect coition, vera copula (naturally), between the parties; and it appears that the defect is permanent and incurable; the case comes within the legal definition of impotence, and is cause for nullity of marriage."

The next year, heterosexuality explicitly was written into Maryland's law.

"Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this state," Article 2-201 of the state's Family Law now says.

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