The Maryland Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, has allowed a same-sex couple to file for divorce, despite the fact that same-sex marriage will not be legal in the state until 2013. The case sparked a national debate on whether states without same-sex marriage can recognize same-sex marriages that took place in other states.
In an update on a subject previously covered by this blog, Maryland's Court of Appeals heard a case involving a lesbian couple seeking a divorce in the state. The women were married in a state that allows same-sex marriage, but filed for divorce in Maryland in 2010. A judge denied the request because Maryland does not currently recognize same-sex marriage, so the couple's marriage is not valid under state law.
The Maryland Court of Appeals will hear the case of a same-sex couple that has requested a no-contest divorce. Courts in the state have thus far refused to grant the women a divorce.
Critics and supporters of same-sex marriage legislation in Maryland and elsewhere have long argued over the consequences of such laws on divorce, with some fearing it could raise divorce rates. According to data from the National Vital Statistics System at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, states that currently allow same-sex marriage generally see lower divorce rates.
While Maryland does not recognize gay marriage, courts are currently deciding whether to authorize same-sex divorce in the state. The state's attorney general issued a statement in 2010 explaining that Maryland should grant divorce to same-sex couples since several neighboring states allow for gay marriages. While such a statement is not binding in anyway, he went on to explain that he predicted the Maryland Supreme Court might agree with him.
Divorce is difficult under any circumstance. However, the pain associated with divorce can be multiplied when legal proceedings cause a delay in finalizing the process. Two Maryland women are facing hardships because their divorce has been denied in a court of law. Because same sex marriage is illegal in the state, a judge chose to deny the divorce of the women, who had been legally married in California.