Maryland’s Highest Court Unanimously Confirms Maryland Must Recognize Same-Sex Marriages From Other States

Maryland’s highest court, the Maryland Court of Appeals, announced today that Maryland must recognize as legal same-sex marriages that are performed in other states.  The decision was unanimous and historic.  

“Maryland recognizes liberally foreign marriages, even those marriages that may be prohibited from being formed if conducted in this state,” Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. wrote for the high court.  “Maryland recognizes liberally foreign marriages, even those marriages that may be prohibited from being formed if conducted in this State,” unless those marriages violate “public policy”.  In other words, Judge Harrell’s decision concludes, “Generally, Maryland courts will honor foreign marriages as long as the marriage was valid in the state where performed.”  Here, the Court decided, there was not only no public policy reason to deny the couple a divorce, but “an array of statutes prohibit public or private discrimination based on sexual orientation.”  

PK Law attorney Leslie R. Stellman who argued in favor of this decision on April 6, 2012, before the Court of Appeals, explained, “The Court based its decision on a legal doctrine known as ‘comity,’ in which the courts of one state recognize marriages validly entered into in another state.”  Mr. Stellman further noted that “the Court made it clear that regardless of the outcome of any election that may be held this fall on the Marriage Equality Act, which would allow for same sex marriages here in Maryland, its decision granting divorces to same sex couples married in states where their marriages were recognized would stand.”

 Mark S. Scurti, attorney and head of the same-sex/LGBT department at PK Law, added, “Rejecting the lower court’s refusal to grant the couple a divorce, on ’public policy’ grounds, the Court of Appeals has concluded that Maryland’s public policy actually supports protecting the rights of gays and lesbians, as reflected in numerous laws and regulations acknowledging their right to be free of discrimination in employment, housing, and other aspects of their lives.”

Nicole E. Ames, Esquire, Director of Marketing and Business Development commented, “This is a wonderful outcome and our firm is proud to have contributed to this historic ruling by Maryland’s highest court.”

Of note, the vote on same-sex marriages in Maryland may be put to a ballot referendum during the November 2012 election, if enough valid signatures are collected from registered Maryland voters.