Pasternak & Fidis Reporter

July 30, 2012

Maryland’s Highest Court Recognizes Out-of-State Same-Sex Marriages

On May 18, 2012, in Port v. Cowan, the Maryland Court of Appeals unanimously held that Maryland courts will recognize a same-sex marriage validly entered into in another state for purposes of granting a divorce. Maryland’s highest court said that its holding is in line with Maryland’s history of according deference to marriages validly performed in other states, even if those states’ laws differ from Maryland’s. Moreover, Maryland statutes that accord rights to same-sex couples as domestic partners and prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in areas such as employment indicate that the Court’s decision is in line with Maryland’s public policy. In March 2012, Governor O’Malley approved a law that will legalize same-sex marriages performed in Maryland effective January 2013, or later, if the law is challenged, as expected, in the November 2012 election and the challenge has not been resolved in favor of the law by such date. The Court of Appeals in the Port case was quick to point out that its holding will be unaffected by any such challenge. In other words, even if Maryland voters reject the law that would allow same-sex couples to marry in Maryland, Maryland courts will still give recognition to valid out-of-state same-sex marriages for purposes of granting a divorce.