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Maryland court hears same-sex divorce case

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 case could set a precedent in the way Maryland handles divorces between same-sex couples, but its implications could be obsolete soon, as Maryland is set to start allowing same-sex marriages in January 2013 under a recently passed law. Unless opponents of the law are successful in reversing it by referendum, the law will make same-sex divorces and marriages officially legal in Maryland.

Attorneys for the women told the seven-judge panel that it would be inconsistent for the court not to grant a divorce on the grounds of an invalid marriage, as Maryland has recognized the legality of same-sex marriages in other situations. For instance, the attorneys said they believed approximately six divorces have been granted to same-sex couples. They added that at least one same-sex couple in addition to their clients has also been denied a divorce on these grounds.

One of the attorneys, also an official with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, argued that divorces should not "depend on what judge you get." The attorneys contended that while Maryland law would not allow a niece and uncle to marry, the state would recognize the validity of that marriage if performed in a state where it is legal. They added that no part of Maryland law prohibits courts from recognizing same-sex marriages from other states.

Source: Philly.com, "Lesbian divorce is heard in Md.," Jessica Gresko, April 7, 2012

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