ANNAPOLIS - An opinion released Thursday by the attorney general’s office said that same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses as soon as Gov. Martin O’Malley “formally proclaims” the results of this month's election, which he is expected to do on or about Dec. 6.
The law, and therefore the licenses, will not be effective until Jan. 1. Attorney General Douglas Gansler answered other questions about the implementation of Maryland's same-sex marriage law in the 19-page opinion.
Gansler and Chief Counsel Adam Snyder found that postdating the licenses’ effective date doesn’t impose an unconstitutional waiting period on same-sex couples because it’s the ceremony, not the license which validates the marriage.
The attorney general’s opinion came in response to questions from circuit court clerks from around the state in the wake of this month’s voter approval of same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage was passed by the legislature during this year’s session, but opponents petitioned the law to a referendum.
Voters also approved same-sex marriage in Maine and Washington, and rejected a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Minnesota. Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia also issue same-sex marriage licenses.
The opinion left the wording of same-sex marriage vows, including the traditional “man and wife” pronouncement, to the discretion of the administrative judge. It recommended, however, that judges defer to the couples themselves as to how they’ll be referred to in their vows.
The opinion also addressed the gray area civil unions –– especially those performed in states which grant all the same rights and responsibilities of marriage –– creates.
Vanessa Bowling with Equality Maryland -- a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization -- said they have been receiving a lot of questions about out-of-state and out-of-country marriage licenses.
Even if one or both parties is engaged in a civil union in another state, with each other or a different person, they can still be issued a license in Maryland, said Alan Brody, deputy communications director for the attorney general’s office.
While the courts may rule differently later, the opinion deals solely with the issue of licensing.
Capital News Service’s Rachael Pacella contributed to this report.