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Court Orders Recognition Of Out-Of-State Gay Marriages

Ruling stems from divorce case filed by a couple married in California in 2008.

UPDATED (5:12 p.m.)—Same-sex marriages legally performed out of state must be recognized by Maryland Courts, according to a decision issued Friday by Maryland’s highest court.

“Maryland courts will withhold recognition of a valid foreign marriage only if that marriage is ‘repugnant’ to State public policy,” wrote Court of Appeals Judge Glenn Harrell Jr. in the 7-0 decision.

Legal experts and Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler said the decision has both immediate and long-term effects—even as the state moves toward a possible referendum on the recently passed law allowing same-sex marriage in the state.

Gansler, who in 2010 issued what he called “a forecast” opinion predicting the court would ultimately recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages, praised the court’s decision.

“This is the decision we thought they would render,” Gansler said. “The facts of the case show how logistically unworkable it would be to have ruled the other way.”

The Court of Appeals ruling stems from a 2010 divorce case filed in Prince Georges County.

Two women, Jessica Port and Virginia Cowan, were legally married in October 2008 in California. Eight months later, the couple separated and ultimately filed for divorce in July 2010.

The judge in that case ruled that recognizing “the alleged marriage would be contrary to the public policy of Maryland” and declared it not valid in the state.

Harrell noted that Anne Arundel and St. Mary’s counties granted divorces to same-sex couples married in states where such unions are legal.

“Putting aside for present purposes whatever may turn out to be the view of the Maryland electorate regarding recognition of the performance in Maryland of domestic same-sex marriages, the treatment given such relationships by the Maryland Legislature (until recently) may be characterized as a case of multiple personality disorder,” wrote Harrell, acknowledging the ongoing effort to place a recently passed same-sex marriage law on the ballot in November.

But the Court of Appeals ruled Friday that for a marriage to be valid in the state for the purposes of divorce, it “cannot be prohibited by statute or ‘repugnant’ to the public policies of Maryland. For the following reasons, Port’s and Cowan’s entitlement, on this record, to a Maryland divorce from their California same-sex marriage is not prohibited, as a matter of law and on this record, by these exceptions,” wrote Harrell.

“A valid out-of-state same-sex marriage should be treated by Maryland courts as worthy of divorce, according to the applicable statutes, reported cases, and court rules of this State,” wrote Harrell.

The Court of Appeals ordered the divorce case remanded back to the Prince George’s County Circuit Court.

Jana Singer, a law professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, said the ruling extends beyond divorce law in Maryland by providing other legal protections enjoyed by heterosexual to same-sex couples—healthcare, child custody and the right to not be compelled to testify against a spouse in criminal court.

Singer was one of more than four-dozen Maryland law professors who filed a court briefing in support of recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. She added that the decision also means more uniformity in how those out-of-state marriages are recognized in courtrooms in the state.

“The Court of Appeals felt it was not fair or appropriate that people received different treatment based on which judge hears the case,” Singer said. “It’s not appropriate receive different treatment based on if you get Judge X in Anne Arundel County or Judge Y in Prince George’s County.”

The court decision comes as opponents of same-sex marriage are collecting signatures in an attempt to petition a recently passed law legalizing such unions in Maryland to the ballot in November.

Gansler said if the law was overturned by referendum that this ruling would still allow for the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.

“It would have no effect whatsoever,” Gansler said. “They’re two completely different issues.”

HyattsvilleCouldBeBetter May 31, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Look at you guys all angry. It's pathetic. Your arguments are based on hate and ignorance. You've done nothing but trash this thread from the beginning. Every time someone argues against you sensibly, you completely ignore the logic and continue rambling anti gay nonsense. I'm just sick of getting emails with your bigoted remarks on a tired old thread. Give up. We all know your opinion. We all know you are bigots. Don't you have something better to do than attack people who have nothing to do with you? Gays have existed since the beginning of reproductive life, and it doesn't matter that they don't reproduce because the complex genetics are recessive.
Escariot May 31, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Hyattsvillecouldnotbequeerer, you just made my argument. You mentioned gays existing since life began, and they were never married then either. It was a union between a man and woman before civilizations rose to prominence from the time of the druids to the precursors in the delta valley known as Egyptians. That union of man and woman existed before cultural and financial implications were ruled on by those people. You are simply on the wrong side of the argument. The American people have voted 38 times out of 38 to preserve fundamental marriage over that of gay marriage. I wonder hyattsville, why don't you go down to the nearest mosque in maryland and picket, and protest muslims for having the same views concerning marriage?
David June 09, 2012 at 07:30 PM
In early colonial Maryland if it had been put to a vote if protestants ought to have rights, the voters would have voted NO. If in 1600 voters had been asked to stop burning "witches", voters would have voted NO. If in 1860 the voters had been asked wether blacks ought have rights, the voters would have voted NO. If in 1900 voters had been asked if women ought be allowed to vote, voters would have voted NO. If in 1950 voters had been asked wether segregation ought end, voters would have voted NO. If in 1960 voters had been asked to allow interracial marriage, the voters would have voted NO. So here we have it, Prejudice 6, Civil Rights 0. That is WHY the founding fathers separated church & state, to protect the fledgling democratic republic from the dogmatism of would-be theocrats. So let Judas Iscariot move to a islamic country where he will be welcome because of his name & deeds, and where he wont have to worry about gays trying to live happy lives in peace.
Escariot June 10, 2012 at 12:29 AM
So, according to your post above, we should impeach Barack Obama because he crossed the separation of church and state by trying to force religious institutions to pay for abortions. I am glad that we agree. Also, the vote on healthcare using reconciliation should also lead to the impeachment of Barack Obama because 60+ percent of Americans opposed it. But strangely sir, I do not see your posts concerning those issues. Why? Because you are a hypocrite. Once again sir, if marriage is a civil right, why can't children marry their grade school sweethearts? Why can't relatives marry? Why can't people marry multiple individuals? My bad, because never has marriage been considered a civil right. So, let David move to europe, because right now the record is states 38, gay marriage 0. By the way David, since you are so brave and mighty on the internet, why have you not protested every mosque and islamic community center for their views on gay marriage? My bad, just like all liberals you sit behind your computer screen thinking that you know "what is right, what is better" for the rest of us americans that oppose gay marriage. When the supreme court rules 5-4 that marriage is a privilige, and not a guaranteed civil right you will be crying like the liberal baby you are about the scotus. Don't let the door hit you on the ass when you leave for europe david....
David June 09, 2013 at 01:37 AM
Well Judas Iscariot, Marriage Equality WON at the ballot box, and had been The Law since January 1, 2013. The sun still rises in the mornings. Birds still sing. Lasagna still tastes great. Old Glory still waves proudly atop the flagpole while The Stars and Stripes Forever still sound glorious. No stars fell off the heavens & life goes on. Guess you were wrong ONCE AGAIN!

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