The Maryland Court of Appeals [official website], the state's highest court, ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that a lesbian couple legally married in California can get a divorce in Maryland. Even though Maryland does not currently allow same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder], the court ruled 7-0 that valid same-sex marriages performed out-of-state should be recognized for purposes of divorce. The court concluded:
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. 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. A valid out-of-state same-sex marriage should be treated by Maryland courts as worthy of divorce, according to the applicable statutes, reported cases, and court rules of this State.Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed a same-sex marriage bill [JURIST report] into law in March, and the law is set to take effect in January, making Maryland the eighth US state to allow same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage continues to be a controversial and divisive issue throughout the US. Earlier this week Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee signed an executive order [JURIST report] requiring government agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed out-of-state. US President Barack Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage last week just one day after voters in North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment to ban it [JURIST report]. Same-sex marriage is now legal in Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia [JURIST reports].