Divorce Becomes Legal in Maryland Before Marriage

By Lucas Grindley

Originally published on Advocate.com May 18 2012 1:18 PM ET

It's not yet legal to get married in Maryland, but an appeals court ruled today that same-sex couples can already get divorced.

Maryland's Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that any Marylander legally wed in another state can get divorced in their home state.

The case centers on Jessica Port and Virginia Cowan, who were married in California in 2008 during the brief period when it was legal. Two years later they sought a divorce in their home state of Maryland and were denied.

Maryland lawmakers took divorce into account when they approved marriage equality, and divorces of same-sex couples would have become legal anyway when the bill becomes law in January. But there was a chance the court's ruling could still be needed.

Opponents of marriage equality hope to use a ballot measure in November to repeal the law before it goes into effect. They're still gathering signatures to get the referendum approved.

Maryland has a long list of protections for LGBT citizens, but it had also previously decided marriage was between only a man and a woman. The court complained about the "mixed messages" being sent by laws.

"Putting aside for present purposes whatever may turn out to be the view of the Maryland electorate regarding recognition of the performance in Maryland of domestic same- sex marriages, the treatment given such relationships by the Maryland Legislature (until recently) may be characterized as a case of multiple personality disorder," the court wrote in its decision.