Gay and lesbian couples can't marry in Maryland, but the high court there says they can divorce
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Same-sex couples may not yet be able to get married in Maryland, but the state’s highest court ruled unanimously Friday that they must be allowed to get divorced.
The Washington Post reports that the decision overturned a lower court opinion that two local women who married in California in 2008 could not get divorced in Maryland because it would run "contrary to the public policy." Pointing to Maryland’s longtime recognition of marriages performed in other states—including, the Post notes, "uncle-niece marriages"—the high court affirmed the right of the women to divorce.
Same-sex marriage was approved by the Maryland Legislature in February and signed by governor Gov. Martin O'Malley in March, but the law won’t take effect until 2013. Opponents hope to gather enough signatures to get a same-sex marriage ban on the ballot this November, before any unions are performed.
Regardless of what happens in November, the women’s lawyer told the Post that the divorce case could have far-reaching effects on gay and lesbian couples in Maryland, extending to hospital visitation and inheritance rights. "It’s just a huge shift of recognition of people’s relationships in Maryland,” she said. While speaking to the Associated Press, the lawyer also noted that unlike in some other states, referendums in Maryland cannot overrule the high court there—so even if same-sex marriage is banned by voters in November, the court's ruling will likely hold up.