Court of Appeals rules that Maryland must recognize valid out-of-state same-sex marriages
On May 18, 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a decision in the case of Port v. Cowan, and held that valid out-of-state same-sex marriages will be recognized as valid in Maryland. The two parties to the case, Jessica Port and Virginia Anne Cowan, were married in California in 2008. They separated two years later, and Port ultimately filed a divorce complaint in Maryland. The trial court denied the request for a divorce, finding that their same-sex marriage was not valid, and was contrary to the public policy of Maryland. In its opinion, the Court of Appeals reasoned that, for purposes of application of Maryland’s divorce laws, a foreign state judgment should be enforced and honored if it is not statutorily prohibited in Maryland, and is not repugnant to Maryland public policy. The court noted that the threshold for “repugnancy” in this context is very high, and that Maryland statutory law does not expressly state that foreign same-sex marriages are void. The Court reviewed Maryland statutes and executive branch policies, and interpreted them to demonstrate that recognition of valid foreign same-sex marriages is consistent with Maryland public policy. Therefore, the Court held that Maryland courts have the power to adjudicate divorce actions between same-sex parties that are validly married in another state.