Constitutional Law

Maryland's Highest Court OKs Same-Sex Divorce


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Same-sex couples can’t get married in Maryland yet. But those who marry elsewhere can now get divorced there.

The Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, ruled Friday that same-sex couples who have a valid marriage from another state can divorce in Maryland.

The court, in a 7-0 ruling (PDF), said Maryland courts should withhold recognition of a valid foreign marriage only if that marriage is “repugnant” to state public policy. It said that threshold is a high bar that had not been met in the case before it.

The case involved two women who were married in California and denied a divorce in 2010 by a Maryland judge.

“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,” Judge Glenn T. Herrell wrote for the court.

The ruling was hailed by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and other advocates as an endorsement of administration policies recognizing gay marriages performed in other states.

“To treat families differently under the law because they happen to be led by gay or lesbian couples is not right or just,” O’Malley said in a prepared statement. “Today’s decision is another step forward in our efforts to ensure that every child is protected equally under the law.”

But critics said the decision was flawed because Maryland doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage.

“[Same-sex marriage] shouldn’t be recognized for any purpose, including the dissolution,” Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal group that opposes gay marriage, told the Baltimore Sun.

Maryland lawmakers passed legislation this year allowing same-sex marriages to begin there in January. But opponents are trying to put the measure on the November ballot in hopes that voters will overturn it.

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