Gay couples in Maryland can’t get married yet, but they can get divorced following a recent court ruling. Until same sex marriages performed in states where it is legal was recognized by the state government, but gayt divorces were not.
The Maryland Court of Appeals voted on Friday by a vote of 7 to 0 saying gay divorce should be recognized as long as the state chooses to recognize any gay marriages.
“A valid out-of-state same-sex marriage should be treated by Maryland courts as worthy of divorce, according to the applicable statues, reported cases, and court rules of this state,” the court said in its 21-page ruling.
Maryland’s Highest Court was forced to rule after a judge denied a divorce to a lesbian couple who was legally married in California. Judge A. Michael Chapdelaine refused to grant the uncontested divorce to the two women saying the marriage was “not valid” and “contrary to the public policy of Maryland.”
The Court of Appeals disagreed arguing that Maryland had accepted the validity of other marriages that would not be legal under its laws, even citing an uncle-niece marriage from Rhode Island which at the time was a misdemeanor subject to a fine in Maryland.
“Under the principles of the doctrine of comity applied in our State, Maryland courts will withhold recognition of a valid foreign marriage only if that marriage is ‘repugnant’ to state public policy,” the high court wrote. “This threshold, a high bar, has not been met yet; e.g., no still viable decision by this Court has deemed a valid foreign marriage to be ‘repugnant,’ despite being void or punishable as a misdemeanor or more serious crime were it performed in Maryland. The present case will be treated no differently.”
The Maryland governor has signed legislation to legalize same-sex marriages that is set to start in January. However, anti-gay groups are still pushing for a referendum to block the law from taking effect.