[JURIST] The Maryland Senate [official website] approved legislation [text, PDF] Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive]. The bill, entitled Civil Marriage Protection Act, would alter existing legislation that validates only heterosexual marriage. Approval of the Act will give gay couples the same full rights of marriage as straight, married couples, but will allow exemptions for religious leaders who object to same-sex marriage. Passed with a 25-21 Senate vote, the bill will now be turned over to the House of Delegates [official website] which is split on the issue [WP report].
The issue of same-sex marriage continues to be hotly debated in the US. Earlier this week, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced that it would no longer defend the constitutionality [JURIST report] of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive], which defines marriage for federal purposes as a legal union between one man and one woman, in court cases challenging the provision. Earlier this week, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed a same-sex civil unions bill into law, while last week, the Wyoming Senate approved a bill that would prevent the state from recognizing same-sex marriages [JURIST reports] and civil unions performed in other jurisdictions. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington DC [JURIST reports].