In 2012, The Civil Marriage Protection Act was passed by Maryland's General Assembly and signed by Governor Martin O'Malley. A majority of Maryland voters approved this law on Nov. 6, 2012 and it went into effect on January 1, 2013 and same-sex couples can now marry in Maryland.
Equality Maryland is working with the Governor's office and other state entities to ensure the law is quickly and consisently implemented. If you are married and your marriage is not being honored, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Frequently Asked Question About the New Law
What happens now?
The law permitting same sex couples to marry took effect on January 1, 2013. Starting on that day, same-sex couples can go to the License Department at the Circuit Court and apply for a marriage license.
What are the implications of choosing to get married?
The implications are potentially significant. First, ask yourself a few questions. Are you ready for this legal commitment? Do you want to bind your lives together with significant financial and other familial consequences? Marriage is a serious commitment with big responsibilities, and only you and your partner can answer these very personal questions for yourselves. For example, if you and your spouse later divorce, the court will make determinations about property distribution, alimony, or other responsibilities. Depending on your circumstances it might make sense to have a pre-marital agreement, which can customize your obligations and benefits.
For same-sex couples, the implications are even more significant, since a couple may have a legally recognized marriage in our state, but not by the federal government. There may be tax consequences, issues around adoption (some states and countries allow adoptions by single parents but not by same-sex-couples), immigration (for information on impacts, go to http://www.immigrationequality.org/issues/couples-and-families/should-we-marry/), needs-based public benefits (spousal income and assets may be counted as part of determining your eligibility), and other areas impacted by federal law.
How do we get married?
Go to the Circuit Court in the county you will be getting married in, not the county you live in, and apply for a marriage license. The process normally takes about 15 minutes. There is a 48 hour waiting period between when you receive your license and when it becomes valid. After it becomes valid, you can conduct your marriage ceremony. There is an application fee, which may vary by jurisdiction. Check with your local Circuit Court to determine the amount and their accepted methods of payment. Maryland does not require a blood test or witnesses. Once a marriage license is issued, it is valid for six months. If you do not conduct your marriage ceremony within that time, you will need to get a new license.
The required application information will include the names, address, and ages of both parties, whether the parties are related, the marital status, if either party was previously married (and additional information if yes), and social security numbers (if applicable). Individual Circuit Court web pages and contact information is available at http://www.courts.state.md.us/circuit/directory.html.
Will the Court marry us?
If you want to have the Court conduct a civil ceremony, you will need to make arrangements with the individual Circuit Court. The hours, location and fees vary by court.
What if we had a religious ceremony or another non-legally recognized commitment ceremony?
If you wish to be married, then you will need to obtain a marriage license and have a religious or civil marriage ceremony.
What if we have a civil union or registered domestic partner status from another state?
As long as you wish to marry the same person that you entered into the civil union or domestic partner registry with, you can proceed with obtaining a marriage license in Maryland. Having marital status will provide stronger legal protections for your family. If you need to dissolve previous civil unions with other partners, you should contact an attorney on how to proceed.
If we already were married somewhere else, do we need to remarry in Maryland?
No, your marriage, as long as it was validly entered into in another state of the United States or in another country, is validly recognized here. You are legally married, and cannot seek to legally remarry.
Can I register my out-of-state or other country marriage?
You do not need to register your foreign marriage in order for it to be recognized in Maryland.
If we aren’t residents of Maryland, can we marry there?
Maryland does not have a residency requirement. Generally, you will need to obtain a marriage license in the county you plan to marry in, and wait 48 hours for the license to become valid. A word of caution, there are some states that impose criminal penalties on their residents if they enter a marriage outside the state that would have been prohibited in the state, and these may be interpreted to apply to marriages of same-sex couples who live in those states. It’s a good idea to check your local state laws. Additionally, if you choose to marry in Maryland as a non-resident, it might present issues for you in the future if you ever decide to divorce, depending on what state you reside in.
Will my marriage be recognized for federal purposes?
Until DOMA is repealed, your marriage will not be recognized by the federal government. As a result, the 1,138 benefits that the federal government provides to married couples will continue to be denied to same-sex married couples, even though you will have all the state rights according to your marriage in Maryland.
Will my marriage be recognized by other states?
Your marriage will be recognized by states that provide recognition to same-sex marriage (for example, the states that have same-sex marriage). It will not be recognized in the states that specifically do not recognize same-sex marriage. For a summary of state recognition, visit http://www.lambdalegal.org/publications/lambda-legals-safety-scale.
Once we’re married, are we fully legally protected?
Unfortunately, no. Because of DOMA and the non-recognition of same-sex marriages by many states, it will continue to be necessary to take extra steps to make sure your family is protected. Our families are also more likely to confront challenges such as family hostility so that the necessity for careful estate planning is especially necessary. You still should do your estate planning documents – a will, durable power of attorney, and a health care advanced directive. If you plan to have children, it’s essential to obtain a second parent adoption. A birth certificate is not sufficient protection. It is also extremely difficult for a nonbiological/de facto parent to be protected without a second parent adoption.
A couple contemplating marriage should consider speaking to an attorney to ensure they are aware of all of the implications of choosing to marry.
Once we’re married, will we both be recognized as legal parents of our children?
To make sure your family is fully protected, it is essential to do a second-parent adoption.
In February, Maryland began permitting a woman to be named as a parent on the birth certificate of the child born to her same-sex married spouse. This is a positive step and provides some safety to lesbian families from the moment the baby is born. However, a birth certificate, or any parentage based upon marital status, is not sufficient to protect your family. In addition, for gay couples Maryland does not issue birth certificates naming two dads on it.
Because of DOMA, other states do not have to recognize your marriage, and therefore, do not have to recognize any benefits or protections that flow from that marriage. Any parental status based solely upon marriage creates a risk that a non-recognition state or the federal government will not recognize you as a parent of your child.
It remains critical that the non-biological parent adopt the baby in a second-parent adoption. Because the adoption is a court order based on the child’s best interest, and not relying solely on marital status, other states must recognize that status. They are bound by the principle of Full Faith and Credit, which generally requires states to recognize other state’s court actions. A birth certificate or marriage certificate does not carry the same high level of recognition and can be ignored by other states. What this means is that every time you step foot into an unfriendly state, and unfortunately that’s still the majority of them, whether it’s for travel or relocation, without a second-parent adoption, your legal role as your child’s parent may not be recognized.
If you’ve already had your children, or you’re choosing not to get married, you still need to second-parent adopt. It’s an important legal protection to have, especially because Maryland does not provide sufficient protection to the non-biological parent if the couple has not adopted. You need to make sure your child and your relationship with your child are protected.
Because your family is the most important thing in your life, it’s essential you’ve taken all the legal steps you can take to protect them. Talk to an attorney about what’s the best way to do that.
Information provided by Susan Silber and Susan Francis of Silber Perlman, Sigman & Tilev
If you have other questions, please email them to email@example.com
This is not legal advice, and should not be relied upon as such.
Join Equality Maryland as we celebrate the Capital Pride Street Festival on Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 7th Streets. The Festival is DC’s largest annual one-day event with over 150,000 visitors, almost 300 sponsor & vendor exhibits, three stages, two beverage gardens, a family area, Taste AT Pride, Art in Pride and numerous food vendors offering a huge selection of various cuisines. We'll have a table set-up for all of your EQMD swag needs, make sure to stop by!
All are welcome at The Interfaith Fairness Coalition of Maryland's annual Pride Interfaith Service held at Metropolitan Community Church of Baltimore on Thursday June 13th at 7:30pm.