Maryland's highest court on Friday
recognized the out-of-state marriage of a lesbian couple.
In a unanimous decision, the Maryland
Court of Appeals ruled that Virginia Cowan, 32, and Jessica Port, 29,
were entitled to divorce under Maryland law. The women married in
2008 in California and denied a divorce in 2010 by a Maryland trial
“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,” the court said.
Maryland lawmakers legalized marriage –
and by extension divorce – for gay couples earlier this year. The
law, however, will not take effect until January and opponents have
vowed to repeal it at the ballot box in November.
The decision means that whatever the
outcome of the proposed referendum, Maryland will recognize the
out-of-state marriages of gay couples.
“The high court of Maryland confirmed
today in this divorce case that out-of-state marriages of same-sex
couples are entitled to legal recognition under longstanding
principles of comity, allowing this couple the same access to a
divorce as other married couples whose relationships have ended. The
Court of Appeals' ruling establishes that Maryland law respects
marriages of same-sex couples entered elsewhere, bringing clarity to
the legal recognition due these marriages,” said Susan Sommer,
director of constitutional litigation at Lambda Legal, which
represented Cowan in the case.
Port was represented by the National
Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).
“There are many same-sex spouses who
married elsewhere who now live in Maryland,” said Shannon Minter,
legal director for NCLR. “This ruling ensures that they have all
the same rights as any other married couple in Maryland. This is a
powerful decision that will provide enormous security and protection
to thousands of families.”