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Gay marriage proponents are toasting a modest victory in Maryland this week.
Although not an absolute legal victory, gay couples are seeing an increase in the rights afforded to them under Maryland law. The Attorney General of Maryland, Douglas F. Gansler, released an opinion on Wednesday that sent cheers and applause from gay-rights advocates.
The opinion, while not necessarily legalizing gay marriage, is a significant step in the direction of legalizing gay marriage, as it will be recognizing gay marriage in other states,
According to the ruling, same-sex couples are afforded the same benefits from state agencies as heterosexual couples. Some of these rights could be health insurance, spousal legal privilege, property rights, the right to file wrongful death suits and possibly some state tax benefits.
The State of Maryland will not be issuing any marriage license to gay couples, however. At least not any time soon. Currently, there are a small number of states allowing for gay marriage. Several states, however, have domestic partnership rules allowing for some benefits to same-sex couples.
The opinion, while not necessarily law, does have some probative effect for state agencies, as it serves to guide them on what rights they must make available to same-sex couples. It also advises that these agencies give full faith and credit to same-sex marriage licenses from other states.
Even opponents of gay marriage are commending the law. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, for one, claims that the legal impact of the law is more important than the social impact, despite the fact that he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.
"I believe the state must give full faith and credit to the laws of our sister states," Miller said.