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Court Orders Recognition Of Out-Of-State Gay Marriages

Ruling stems from divorce case filed by a couple married in California in 2008.

Same-sex marriages legally performed out of state must be recognized by Maryland Courts, according to a decision issued Friday by Maryland’s highest court.

“Maryland courts will withhold recognition of a valid foreign marriage only if that marriage is ‘repugnant’ to State public policy,” wrote Court of Appeals Judge Glenn Harrell Jr. in the 7-0 decision.

The case stems from a 2010 divorce case filed in Prince Georges County.

Two women, Jessica Port and Virginia Cowan, were legally married in October 2008 in California. Eight months later, the couple separated and ultimately filed for divorce in July 2010.

The judge in that case ruled that recognizing “the alleged marriage would be contrary to the public policy of Maryland” and declared it not valid in the state.

Harrell noted that Anne Arundel and St. Mary’s counties granted divorces to same-sex couples married in states where such unions are legal.

“Putting aside for present purposes whatever may turn out to be the view of the Maryland electorate regarding recognition of the performance in Maryland of domestic same-sex marriages, the treatment given such relationships by the Maryland Legislature (until recently) may be characterized as a case of multiple personality disorder,” wrote Harrell, acknowledging the ongoing effort to place a recently passed same-sex marriage law on the ballot in November.

But the Court of Appeals ruled Friday that for a marriage to be valid in the state for the purposes of divorce, it “cannot be prohibited by statute or ‘repugnant’ to the public policies of Maryland. For the following reasons, Port’s and Cowan’s entitlement, on this record, to a Maryland divorce from their California same-sex marriage is not prohibited, as a matter of law and on this record, by these exceptions,” wrote Harrell.

“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,” wrote Harrell.

The Court of Appeals ordered the divorce case remanded back to the Prince George’s County Circuit Court.

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