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Maryland mulls repealing Civil War pro-slavery amendment

By Alice Popovici

(Reuters) - More than 150 years after Maryland adopted a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution barring the abolition of slavery, state lawmakers are considering repealing the Civil War-era ratification.

Maryland was one of three states to ratify the so-called Corwin Amendment, which was designed to keep some states from leaving the Union side during the 1861-1865 war.

Although the state abolished slavery in 1864, some Maryland lawmakers said it was necessary to correct a past mistake, even if the act was largely symbolic.

"It's a very ugly page in Maryland history and it's time we turned that page," said Brian Frosh, a Democratic state senator and one of the bill's sponsors.

The amendment was introduced by Ohio Republican Representative Thomas Corwin and ratified by Maryland in 1862. It never became part of the U.S. Constitution.

"No Amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State," it said.

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery in 1865.

Frosh said he and Maryland Democratic Delegate Curt Anderson began to draft the bill after one of his constituents, a college student doing archival research, emailed last year to ask why Maryland had not rescinded its ratification.

The bill unanimously passed the Senate on Wednesday, and is in the House of Delegates.

Frosh said he expected the bill to pass both chambers by the end of March or beginning of April. It will then go to Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley for signing.

(Editing by Ian Simpson)

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