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Splitting Hairs: LGBT Divorce in MD

There are multiple legal complexities that come with getting married; even more for same-sex couples. Besides the taxation issues, potential employment issues, and other issues regulated by the federal government via DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), marriage for same-sex couples brings many obstacles to the table. One such obstacle is divorce. Divorce is the final separation of a legal marriage where the marital assets are divided, but if your state doesn’t recognize your marriage, how can you legally get a divorce?

Maryland is a vibrant and diverse state, so it makes sense that in February 2012 the Maryland General Assembly passed the Civil Marriage Protection Act  to legalize same-sex marriage, which was signed by Governor Martin O’Malley on March 1, 2012. The progression of the law was halted by a political challenge that landed the law via referendum on the 2012 general election ballot to be held on November 6, 2012. While the law granting same-sex marriages is in limbo until November, where do Maryland same-sex couples seeking divorce stand? What are their options? For example, if a same-sex couple is married in DC, move to Maryland, and wish to get a divorce about establishing legal residency in Maryland, do they have to wait to get that divorce until the general election? The Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that same-sex divorces can be granted in Maryland even though same-sex marriages are not yet legal in the state.

In the May 18 ruling, the high court stated that, “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.” This decision in Port v. Cowan lends tremendous support for the push to legalizing same-sex marriage. A ruling that recognizes out-of-state same-sex marriages grants rights and protections to same-sex couples that otherwise would not have existed. This is another step in the state-wide acceptance of same-sex marriage, which could culminate in the voter acceptance of the marriage equality bill this November.