Lambda Legal Urges Maryland Counties to Recognize Out-of-State Marriages of Same-Sex Couples
"With recent victories we have been chipping away at discrimination in Maryland, but we now call on all counties to get on the right side of the law and respect same-sex spouses married out-of-state."
(Annapolis, MD June 27, 2012) - Lambda Legal sent letters today to the leaders of 20 Maryland counties asking for confirmation that it is county policy to recognize out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples, including for purposes of county employee spousal benefits.
In May the Maryland Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that marriages of same-sex couples are entitled to recognition under Maryland law. In addition Lambda Legal has secured victories winning important spousal benefits for government employees in Baltimore and Washington counties and the Anne Arundel Public School System. In today's letter, Lambda Legal asks counties that have not yet confirmed they extend spousal benefits to employees with same-sex spouses to do so now. Lambda Legal has called for confirmation by July 27, 2012 that the counties are adhering to state law and respecting these marriages.
"Now that the high court of Maryland has confirmed that out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples are entitled to legal recognition, all counties remaining in the state without policies recognizing these marriages should confirm they follow state law on this issue," said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal. "With recent victories we have been chipping away at discrimination in Maryland, but we now call on all counties to get on the right side of the law and respect same-sex spouses married out-of-state."
The letter to Maryland county leaders cites the Maryland Court of Appeals' unanimous ruling in May 2012 in the divorce case Port v. Cowan holding that out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples are entitled to recognition under Maryland law. As the Court confirmed, this recognition must be accorded regardless of whether same-sex couples can marry within Maryland or the outcome of a possible referendum on the recently enacted law to allow same-sex couples to marry in the state. Lambda Legal also cited its advocacy efforts in Anne Arundel County on behalf of a public school employee, in Baltimore County on behalf of two police officers, and in Washington County on behalf of a county librarian, which resulted in extension of eligibility for spousal health benefits to all same-sex spouses of employees in those jurisdictions. The letter points to state law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination by county governments, along with the 2010 opinion of Attorney General Douglas Gansler reiterating that, under longstanding Maryland law, out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples receive legal respect and should be treated like any other marriage.
"While Maryland same-sex couples should be able to marry in their home state, those who have married elsewhere are entitled to recognition of their spouses and protections for their families. We hope the recently enacted Maryland marriage law will soon take effect, but whatever happens at the ballot box in November, out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples must be given legal respect," Sommer added.