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A victory for same-sex marriage in California may be welcome news for supporters of the issue in Maryland, but it isn’t likely to have a direct impact on the debate in the General Assembly, officials say.

A federal appeals court panel overturned Proposition 8, approved by California voters in 2008. The proposition banned same-sex marriage, months after it had been made legal by the state Supreme Court.

The panel ruled that the proposition was unconstitutional because it served no purpose other than to make same-sex couples inferior to heterosexual couples.

“It’s a momentum booster,” said Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park, a supporter of same-sex marriage. “It shows those who are for marriage equality are going to be on the right side of history.”

Mizeur doubted the ruling would slow efforts to take the issue to voter referendum should same-sex marriage be approved by the legislature this year, but was confident that supporters eventually would win out, even if court challenges dragged on for years.

Opponents such as Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R-Dist. 34) of Abingdon hope to defeat the proposal outright in the legislature to avoid going to referendum in the November presidential election.

Gathering enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot — nearly 56,000 — in such a short time would be difficult, and the result likely would be challenged in court, Jacobs said.

Last year, a bill legalizing same-sex marriage was narrowly approved in the Senate but died in the House.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis said he felt the ruling was unlikely to affect debate over the issue in the General Assembly. Legislators likely will focus on the bill before them, he said.

Del. William Frank (R-Dist. 42) of Lutherville, who opposes same-sex marriage and is co-sponsor of a bill that would make marriages between a man and a woman the only legally recognized domestic union in the state, also doubted the California ruling would impact the Maryland discussion.

“We’re going to proceed with what we believe is the right thing to do,” Frank said.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who sponsored legislation legalizing same-sex marriage this year, was pleased with the court’s ruling.

“Many people understand that over the long term, the principles of equal protection under the law and of equal respect for the freedom of all will prevail,” O’Malley said in a statement Tuesday. “Today’s decision is further evidence of that truth.”

dleaderman@gazette.net