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.
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 one state but not another, there may be tax consequences and issues around adoption (some states and countries allow adoptions by single parents but not by same-sex-couples).
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://mdcourts.gov/circuit/.
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 legally married, then you will need to obtain a marriage license and have a religious or civil marriage ceremony.
Who can perform a marriage ceremony?
Under Maryland law a marriage ceremony can be performed by:
(i) any official of a religious order or body authorized by the rules and customs of that order or body to perform a marriage ceremony; (ii) any clerk; (iii) any deputy clerk designated by the county administrative judge of the circuit court for the county; or (iv) a judge.
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?
Yes. The Supreme Court struck down the provision of federal law that prohibited the federal government from honoring marriages of same-sex couples. You can find out more information here.
Several federal agencies have provided guidance for married same-sex couples, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Office of Personnel Management (for civilian federal employees), Social Security.
With regard to Social Security benefits, you can read this White House Briefing:
Social Security Administration Begins Processing Payments to Same-Sex Couples
In light of the Supreme Court decision striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Social Security Administration announced that it will begin processing payments to same-sex couples.
The following statement was issued by Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security:
“I am pleased to announce that Social Security is now processing some retirement spouse claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due. The recent Supreme Court decision on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, made just over a month ago, helps to ensure that all Americans are treated fairly and equally, with the dignity and respect they deserve.
We continue to work closely with the Department of Justice. In the coming weeks and months, we will develop and implement additional policy and processing instructions. We appreciate the public’s patience as we work through the legal issues to ensure that our policy is legally sound and clear.
I encourage individuals who believe they may be eligible for Social Security benefits to apply now, to protect against the loss of any potential benefits. We will process claims as soon as additional instructions become finalized.”
With regard to Medicare benefits, you can read this press release by the Department of Health and Human Services or download the PDF here:
HHS announces first guidance implementing Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act
Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a memo clarifying that all beneficiaries in private Medicare plans have access to equal coverage when it comes to care in a nursing home where their spouse lives. This is the first guidance issued by HHS in response to the recent Supreme Court ruling, which held section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
“HHS is working swiftly to implement the Supreme Court’s decision and maximize federal recognition of same-sex spouses in HHS programs,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Today’s announcement is the first of many steps that we will be taking over the coming months to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision and to ensure that gay and lesbian married couples are treated equally under the law.”
“Today, Medicare is ensuring that all beneficiaries will have equal access to coverage in a nursing home where their spouse lives, regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “Prior to this, a beneficiary in a same-sex marriage enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan did not have equal access to such coverage and, as a result, could have faced time away from his or her spouse or higher costs because of the way that marriage was defined for this purpose.”
Under current law, Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan are entitled to care in, among certain other skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), the SNF where their spouse resides (assuming that they have met the conditions for SNF coverage in the first place, and the SNF has agreed to the payment amounts and other terms that apply to a plan network SNF). Seniors with Medicare Advantage previously may have faced the choice of receiving coverage in a nursing home away from their same-sex spouse, or dis-enrolling from the Medicare Advantage plan which would have meant paying more out-of-pocket for care in the same nursing home as their same-sex spouse.
Today’s guidance clarifies that this guarantee of coverage applies equally to all married couples. The guidance specifically clarifies that this guarantee of coverage applies equally to couples who are in a legally recognized same-sex marriage, regardless of where they live.
The Department of Defense welcomes the Supreme Court's decision on the Defense of Marriage Act. The department will immediately begin the process of implementing the Supreme Court's decision in consultation with the Department of Justice and other executive branch agencies. The Department of Defense intends to make the same benefits available to all military spouses -- regardless of sexual orientation -- as soon as possible, no later than Sept. 3, 2013. That is now the law and it is the right thing to do.
The Department of Justice also recently chose to extend veterans' benefits to same-sex married couples.
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?
On June 26, 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the section of DOMA that prohibited the federal government from honoring marriages of same-sex couples. This means married same-sex couples in Maryland willl now have access to the 1,138 federal protections afforded married couples. For more information, click here. 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 of 2013, 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 not all of the sections of of DOMA were struck down in June 2013, 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.
For questions relating to immigration and marriage, please visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services's page on same-sex marriage: frequently asked questions.
Information provided by attorneys at 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.