Attorney General Says Law is Clear: Maryland Law Permits Recognition of Legal Marriages of Same-Gender Couples

Baltimore, MD–(ENEWSPF)–February 24, 2010.  Equality Maryland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland applauded an opinion released today by the Office of Attorney General Doug Gansler that states that marriages of same-gender couples validly entered into in other jurisdictions may and should be honored here at home. The Attorney General’s opinion relies on longstanding legal precedent that says couples who have been legally married in another state are treated under Maryland law as validly married, even if that marriage could not performed in the State of Maryland.

“The Attorney General’s opinion simply states that Maryland law recognizes marriages of couples who married out of state, pursuant to Maryland comity law,” said Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), who requested the formal legal opinion in May 2009. “We expect and look forward to state agencies acting in accord with the opinion and the law, and reviewing their practices and regulations to see what changes may be necessary to comply.”

“While this is welcome news for those couples who were legally married in one of the growing number of states with equality in marriage, nothing in the Attorney General’s opinion changes the unacceptable fact that same-sex couples cannot obtain marriage licenses in Maryland,” added Senator Madaleno.

Maryland follows New York State, which honors marriages between same-gender couples even though such marriages are not performed in that jurisdiction. Five states – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire – and the District of Columbia have passed marriage equality laws allowing same gender couples to marry.

“This important opinion is consistent with the long-standing tradition of legal recognition of valid marriages entered into in other states. And it is a positive development that will mean greater security, stability and peace of mind for legally married same-gender spouses whose marriages should rightfully be honored here at home,” said ACLU of Maryland Executive Director Susan Goering.

“The Attorney General’s opinion is also consistent with Maryland’s public policy, which has steadily supported increasing legal protections for same-sex couples and their families. In recent years, the legislature has granted approximately 15 protections of legal marriage to same-gender couples in the areas of medical decision-making and inheritance,” said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, Executive Director of Equality Maryland.

“However, most of the 400+ state-level legal protections of marriage still remain out of reach to thousands of committed couples. Only civil marriage here at home and an end to discrimination by the federal government will provide full and equal protection under the law,” said Meneses-Sheets.