A.G. says state law calls for recognition of marriages of same-sex couples

(Washington, D.C., February 24, 2010) — The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) hails the opinion issued today by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler that the marriages of same-sex couples validly entered into in other jurisdictions may be recognized by the state. The decision predicts that the Maryland high court likely would “recognize a same-sex marriage contracted validly in another jurisdiction.” Maryland has long recognized the marriages of couples who married outside of the state, and this decision simply affirms that longstanding tradition. The state law principle that governs the recognition of marriages from out of state is called “comity.” The opinion was requested by Maryland State Senator Richard S. Madaleno, Jr.

“Attorney General Gansler issued a legal opinion that correctly interprets state law to permit marriage recognition,” said NCLR Managing Attorney Liz Seaton. “Most of Maryland’s families will be utterly unaffected by this opinion, but married same-sex couples can go about the business of working and raising families knowing that their marriages can be honored under state law and with the security that their families can be protected in the same way other families are.”

New York and the District of Columbia already recognize marriages of same-sex couples validly performed in other jurisdictions. At this time, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry, and a similar law passed by the D.C. City Council is anticipated to go into effect in D.C. in early March.

“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.”

NCLR provided legal analysis about Maryland law and policy to the Office of the Attorney General, which actively solicited public comment on this issue, and to our partner organization, Equality Maryland.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.