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Maryland now recognizes out-of-state Gay marriages
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Maryland now recognizes out-of-state Gay marriages

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

State agencies in Maryland must now recognize out-of-state Gay marriages until the Legislature or courts decided otherwise, Maryland's attorney general said on February 22 after issuing a long-awaited 45-page legal opinion.

'This will be ultimately resolved in the courts,' Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler told reporters.

He said that the state's highest court would likely rule that legal Gay marriages in other states are valid in Maryland, but says the matter "is not free from all doubt."

"There are five states that recognize marriages as far as Gay marriage, and what the opinion says is that if the court were to look at that and say how should those be treated in Maryland, then we would recognize those marriages," said Gansler.

Maryland law defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but Gansler, a Democrat, wrote that the state generally acknowledges couples married elsewhere. Maryland is one of six states that does not specifically address the validity of same-sex marriages from other states.

While Gansler's opinion doesn't change the law, it represents an interpretation that can guide a state agency. In other words, the attorney general's office would defend a state agency in court for recognizing a same-sex marriage from another state.

Gay rights advocates say it's a step in the right direction.

"The favorable opinion, it affirms that the law in the state of Maryland recognizes valid marriages of same-gender couples, and this really increases the statewide momentum for full marriage equality for LGBT Marylanders," said Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director Equality Maryland.

Some lawmakers say the attorney general's opinion undermines the authority of the Maryland General Assembly.

Delegate Don Dwyer, a Republican, is calling for Gansler's impeachment.

"He stepped over the line; he's violated his authority, and as a result, he's going to face the consequences. Will I be successful in removing him? I don't know. That's up to the members of the assembly," said Dwyer.

"We don't make policy. All we do in this case [is] we look at the law and how we believe a court would interpret that law," said Gansler. "It seems very clear to us that the law is actually quite unambiguous here, that Maryland always recognizes out-of-state valid marriages in the state of Maryland. It's been done since the inception of the state."

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley issued a statement regarding Gansler's opinion, saying he is confident the attorney general "will provide all necessary advice to state agencies on how to comply with the law."

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