Maryland Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage (and Divorce); Some States Don’t

State laws govern various aspects of marriage and divorce. Since each state has the authority to enact such laws, there are many differences, both procedural and substantive, throughout the country. Here in Maryland, in 2012, Governor Martin O’Malley signed Senate Bill 116, the Civil Marriage Protection Act, thereby legalizing same-sex civil marriage in the state. By doing so, Maryland became the eighth state in the country to legalize same-sex marriages. But not all states have taken the same initiative, leaving same-sex couples with certain obstacles with respect to marriage and divorce. If you are considering divorce, an experienced Maryland family law attorney would be able to review your case to come up with the best strategy to protect your rights under the circumstances.

A controversial case from Mississippi illustrates one of the problems couples may face when seeking to dissolve a same-sex marriage. Here, two women (Lauren Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon) were married in California in 2008. They bought a house together in Mississippi prior to separating in 2010. Upon filing for divorce, the court advised the couple that under Mississippi state law – which does not recognize same-sex marriages — it did not have the authority to grant the divorce. Specifically, the court pointed out that the Mississippi Constitution and the state statutes prevented it from doing so. While the couple may pursue their divorce in California, Czekala-Chatham has stated that they should not be treated differently than straight couples. She appealed the court’s decision.

The Governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, has decided to intervene in the case by opposing the appeal to the highest court in the state. The court granted the Governor’s motion to intervene, and the Mississippi Supreme Court has indicated that it would hear the case rather than assign it to the appellate court. Parties who are against the granting of the divorce argue that each state should be permitted to make its own rules.

According to a news article, just this past month the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear cases from five states that are seeking to keep their same-sex marriage bans in place. Those states include Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. By refusing to hear these appeals, the Court is tacitly clearing the way for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Experts say that the Court’s refusal to hear the cases from those states could also means that six additional states — Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kansas, West Virginia, and Wyoming – may also be required to lift their bans on same-sex marriage. On the federal level, these states reside within the same circuit appeals courts that initially struck down the prohibitions.

According to another news report, reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision poured in from states around the country. Governor O’Malley stated, “In Maryland, we didn’t wait for the courts. We passed marriage equality to protect the dignity of every child’s home. Hopefully, this fundamental right will be protected in every state soon.” While same-sex marriage is a controversial issue at the moment, causing couples distress over the prospect of divorce in some cases, the Supreme Court’s inaction spoke volumes and will likely serve to propel the issue further.

Couples who seek to divorce often face many obstacles:  logistical, emotional, and financial. An experienced, local family law lawyer can help to protect your rights while working to move the process along smoothly. You are encouraged to contact Maryland attorney Anthony Fatemi and his legal team for a consultation. They have years of experience in Maryland family law, including matters of divorce, prenuptial agreements, separation agreements, property distribution, custody arrangements, alimony, and domestic violence.

Related Blog Posts:

Same-sex marriage in Maryland

Maryland Governor O’Malley Establishes Commission on Child Custody Decision Making

Contact Information