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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Separate but Equal in Maryland, Roger Taney Would be so Proud

Update: Del. Alston's position has been clarified - she would end marriage in Maryland and replace it with civili unions for all - please see my updated post. This certainly negates the separate but equal issue, but does not really resolve much of anything.

As a follow up to her decision to reconsider supporting a marriage equality bill that she co-sponsored, Del. Tiffany Alston says that she has found the solution - an amendment that would offer civil unions instead. "I have what I believe to be a solution..." Alston reportedly said.

Civil Unions is not an altogether new solution, 100 years ago we referred to such solutions as "separate but equal." Under the guise of separate but equal, African-Americans were entitled to receive the very same public services and accommodations as whites - public schools, bathrooms, water fountains - but states were free to provide different facilities for each. The U.S. Supreme Court endorsed the policy in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson and six decades of legal segregation followed - until a later court, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, acknowledged what everyone knew: separate but equal was anything but equal.

If Maryland decides as a matter of law that heterosexual couples can marry, but homosexual couples must enter civil unions then it will take the coward's way out and declare that separate but equal is an acceptable public policy - at least the state would be living up to the legacy of native son Roger Taney - former member of the House of Delegates, former state senator, and, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, author of the infamous Dred Scott decision - but is that the legacy Del. Alston, or any other member of the assembly, wants to leave?