Maryland Attorney General Declares State Can Recognize Out of Jurisdiction Same-Sex Marriages

by HRC Staff

Same-sex couples can receive all of the state rights and responsibilities of marriage.

Washington - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, lauded Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler today for his sound legal opinion in analyzing Maryland's marriage comity laws.

"Although today's long-awaited opinion by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler won't erase many of the inequalities same-sex couples in Maryland face, it is certainly a positive development on the road to marriage equality," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Today's opinion by the Maryland Attorney General only continues to further highlight the burdensome patchwork of unequal laws same-sex couples face across the country. With every step that is taken in the progress towards full equality, it becomes more and more obvious that separate is not equal and marriage by any other name is not marriage."

Maryland may join New York in providing marriage rights to same-sex couples married out of jurisdiction while not issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples within the state. The Attorney General's opinion explains that the state may recognize out of jurisdiction marriages either through legislation enacted by the Maryland General Assembly, through a decision of the Court of Appeals, or by state agencies. With Washington, D.C. poised to begin accepting marriage applications from same-sex couples on March 3, 2010, when the Congressional review period ends, recognition of same-sex marriages will have a significant practical meaning for many same-sex couples in Maryland.

At this time, five states recognize marriage for same-sex couples under state law: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Five states-California, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada-plus Washington, D.C. provide same-sex couples with access to the state level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Hawaii, Colorado, Maine, Maryland and Wisconsin provide same-sex couples with limited rights and benefits. New York, and Washington, D.C. recognize marriages of same-sex couples validly entered into outside of the jurisdiction. California recognized marriage by same-sex couples between June and November of 2008, before voters approved Proposition 8, which purports to amend the state constitution to prohibit marriage equality. Couples married during that window remain married under California law, but all other same-sex couples can only receive a domestic partnership within the state. The state will recognize out of state same-sex marriages that occurred before November 5, 2008 as marriages and those that occurred on or after November 5, 2008 as domestic partnerships. The Proposition 8 vote has been challenged in federal court a decision is not expected any time soon.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Contact Us

To make a general inquiry, please visit our contact page. Members of the media can reach our press office at: (202) 572-8968 or email