Pubdate: Sun, 28 Feb 2010
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2010 The Baltimore Sun Company
Author: Jean Marbella
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


A couple of Black Fridays ago, I talked to two suburban moms who were
out on that big shopping day after Thanksgiving and, like many that
year, worried about affording Christmas presents for their kids. I
assumed they were sisters or friends, but they corrected me - they
were a couple.

Even among my own acquaintances, I still do a mental double-take - not
"Oh, my God!" so much as "Hmm, interesting" - when a woman refers to
her wife.

Some assumptions, I guess, only time fixes.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't push the clock to move faster, or
bend that arc of history whenever we can, however incrementally.

Last week in Annapolis was something of a study in how elected
officials can get ahead of the culture or play catch-up with it, or
perhaps just run alongside until the time presents an opening.

Early in the week, Attorney General Doug Gansler issued an opinion
that same-sex marriages performed elsewhere would be recognized in
Maryland. Then, on Friday, the House held a hearing on a medical
marijuana bill that would expand on a much more limited measure
enacted seven years ago.

Midway through a legislative session marked mostly by caution - given
that it's an election year and a time of severe budgetary constraints
- - the week was bookended by two hot-button issues.

Gansler's opinion, for all the celebration and outcry that it
generated, doesn't dramatically change the landscape overnight.
Same-sex couples still can't marry in the state, but if they do so
somewhere else, the state will recognize their certificate the same
way it would a heterosexual couple's. The opinion is not law, but it
serves as a guide to state agencies and is expected to confer certain
property, inheritance and other spousal rights to married same-sex

I'd like to see Maryland join the five other states and the District
of Columbia in allowing same-sex marriage rather than simply accept
their certificates. But for now, at least, Maryland doesn't seem quite
ready to make that leap, after the Court of Appeals upheld the state's
ban on gay marriage several years ago.

Times change, though, and I can't help but think someday we're going
to wonder what the fuss was all about. I met some of the couples who
were part of the lawsuit that made it to the appellate court, and
surely this isn't news, but they were your next-door neighbors - among
them a cop, a lawyer, a bus driver, a nurse, a military service
member, churchgoers, parents.

Except that there was no guarantee that, should they give birth, grow
ill or die, their partners would have the kind of legal standing that
married couples do.

While polls still show that less than half of Americans support
same-sex marriage, that is much more than 10 years or 20 years ago.
And, those polls show, the support is strongest among young people -
signaling, perhaps, that in the future, same-sex marriage will just be
considered .. marriage.

Similarly, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found last month that 81
percent of those surveyed approve of legalizing marijuana for medical
use. Even 13 years earlier, the pollsters said, support was running at
69 percent.

Again debunking its ultra-liberal blueness, Maryland isn't one of the
14 states to allow medical marijuana, although supporters are hopeful
about bills introduced in both houses of the legislature this year. In
2003, the state dipped a toe in these waters, enacting a law that
limited the penalties for getting caught with marijuana if you could
prove you have a medical need for it.

"You've got to crawl before you can walk before you can jog before you
can sprint," one of the measure's sponsors, Sen. David Brinkley, told
The Sun at the time.

This year, the Frederick County Republican has introduced a bill to
allow marijuana to be grown and dispensed for medicinal purposes. With
one of the Senate's most progressive members, Jamie Raskin, a
Montgomery County Democrat, as his co-sponsor, Brinkley said the
bill's support spans "both ends of the political spectrum."

"We're trying to prove it's a nonpartisan issue," Brinkley said. "It's
not a liberal-conservative issue."

With the Obama administration backing off from prosecuting medical
marijuana cases - federal law still considers any use illegal -
Brinkley thinks the time is right for Maryland to build on its 2003

"It's the evolution," he said of the years-in-the-making change. "It
can't happen as revolution all the time." 
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D