Friday, September 11, 2009

Maryland's Attorney General Is Expected to Give Favorable Legal Opinion for Marriage Equality Recognition

In June openly gay Sen. Richard S. Madaleno requested the state's attorney general Douglas F. Gansler's opinion on whether or not Maryland's law demands recognition of same-sex marriages legally performed outside of the state.

AG Gansler, a vocal supporter for marriage equality, is putting together his opinion which is expected in the next few weeks. The Washington Blade is reporting that legal experts expect his opinion will favor marriage equality recognition, a move that could open an avenue for legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples who have been rebuffed by the courts and legislature there.

However, this puts Gansler in a difficult position because that law clearly states that marriage is between a man and a woman, but the state also adheres to a long-standing legal principle that generally acknowledges couples married elsewhere.

David Rocah, an American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney, told the Washington Blade that Maryland law is “quite clear that out-of-state [same-sex] marriages should be recognized just like other out-of-state marriages are recognized, even though they couldn’t be entered into in Maryland under Maryland law.”

“There’s no such thing as common law marriage in Maryland, but Maryland courts have held for decades that out-of-state common law marriages will be recognized since marriage is an important relationship and whether or not you’re married shouldn’t depend on crossing a state line,” he said. “If it’s valid when it’s entered into, then that validity travels with you.”

Jana Singer, a law professor at the University of Maryland, said another favorable sign is that in the Maryland high court’s 2007 decision on same-sex marriage, the court “did not say that same-sex marriage violates public policies, but said it was a legislative matter.”

In Maryland, same-sex marriage proposals have remained bottled up in committee. While a legalization bill is expected to have a high-profile sponsor next year in Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat, the panel's makeup is expected to remain the same, so another deadlock is likely.

Yet if Washington D.C. passes its own marriage equality bill, as is expected, this could have a direct effect on neighboring Maryland.

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