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Md. high court rules 'yes' to gay divorce

Friday - 5/18/2012, 2:51pm  ET

Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Maryland's highest court has ordered a Prince George's County judge grant a divorce to a lesbian couple who married legally in California.

In a ruling posted today, the Maryland Court of Appeals overturned a 2010 circuit court ruling which denied a divorce to the women because their marriage was "not valid" and "contrary to the public policy of Maryland."

Jessica Port and Virginia Anne Cowan legally married in California in 2008.

Two years later, while living in Maryland, they decided to separate and divorce.

However, the Prince George's County trial judge wrote the "same sex marriage in which the parties hereto participated is not valid pursuant to Maryland law(T)o recognize the alleged marriage would be contrary to the public policy of Maryland."

In its written ruling, the appeals court said, "Generally, Maryland courts will honor (out-of-state) marriages as long as the marriage was valid in the state where performed."

The court mentioned examples of Maryland allowing marriages from other states, which allow a marriage between an uncle and a niece.

The panel wrote Maryland can withhold recognition of a valid out-of-state marriage "only if that marriage is 'repugnant' to State public policy."

According to the panel, "A valid out-of-state same-sex marriage should be treated by Maryland courts as worthy of divorce."

Maryland became the eighth state to legalize gay marriage in March 2012. The law is scheduled to take effect in January 2013, although opponents are expected to attempt to make the issue a referendum on the November ballot.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)