Maryland's highest court ruled Friday that same-sex couples can divorce in the state even though Maryland does not yet permit same-sex marriages.
The Court of Appeals ruled 7-0 that couples who have a valid marriage from another state can divorce in Maryland. The case involved two women who were married in California and denied a divorce in 2010 by a Maryland judge.
The ruling may have limited effect because same-sex weddings, and by extension divorces, are set to start in the state in January. However, opponents of the law passed this year are seeking to overturn it in a potential voter referendum in November.
"A valid out-of-state same-sex marriage should be treated by Maryland courts as worthy of divorce, according to the applicable statues, reported cases, and court rules of this state," the court concluded in a 21-page ruling.
It said Maryland courts should withhold recognition of a valid foreign marriage only if that marriage is "repugnant" to state public policy. The court says the threshold is a high bar that has not been met in the case that it ruled on.
Lawyers for the women told the Court of Appeals that is would be unprecedented for the state not to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere.