ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland's highest court ruled Friday that same-sex couples can divorce in the state, even though Maryland does not yet permit same-sex marriages.
The Court of Appeals ruled 7-0 that couples who have a valid marriage from another state can divorce in Maryland. The case involved two women who were married in California and denied a divorce in 2010 by a Maryland judge.
"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 in a 21-page ruling.
It said Maryland courts should withhold recognition of a valid foreign marriage only if that marriage is "repugnant" to state public policy. The court said the threshold is a high bar that had not been met in the case that it ruled on.
An attorney for one of the parties in the divorce case cheered the ruling because now Maryland will at least recognize same-sex marriages from other states, regardless of the outcome of a referendum.
Unlike other states, Maryland has no ban on recognizing same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. In 2010, state Attorney General Doug Gansler issued an opinion that said out-of-state same-sex marriages may be recognized under Maryland law. As a result, state agencies have extended benefits to same-sex spouses of state employees and issued birth certificates that recognize the same-sex spouse of a woman who gives birth as a parent.
Six states and the District of Columbia, which borders Maryland, currently permit gay couples to marry. The states are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.