This morning, the Maryland Attorney General released a well-reasoned opinion that firmly establishes that the state may recognize same-sex marriages from other states (and countries). The Far Right, of course, wanted an opinion stating that Maryland would not recognize out-of-state marriages. Unfortunately for them, the law just wasn’t on their side, and the Attorney General was not willing to twist it for their purposes.
Maryland law specifically prohibits same-sex marriage. But as the AG writes in detail, Maryland has a long history of recognizing out of state marriages that cannot be performed within the state. The only exception: During the dark era of Jim Crow, Maryland found out-of-state interracial marriages so repugnant to its public policy that its high court stated that they would not be recognized within the state.
As the AG opinion points out, Maryland has numerous laws that protect and respect the rights of same-sex couples. Gays and lesbians do not face a virulent and violent foe in the form of the state, as African Americans once did. So you’d have to bend legal precedent beyond the breaking point to say that Maryland cannot recognize the out-of-state marriages of gay and lesbian couples.
The Far Right will likely not be happy with this opinion, claiming that it violates the right of Maryland to decide this issue by itself, rather than have other states decide for it. But an opinion doing what they want would be based on animus, not principle.
Every day in this country, state officials choose to recognize lawful out-of-state marriages of the type that their own state legislatures have explicitly rejected.
For instance, fully one half of the states – twenty-five – prohibit marriages between first cousins, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nevertheless, cousins who marry in one of the other 25 states don’t go from married to unmarried and back to married again every time they cross state lines. That’s because across America, states recognize marriages performed in their sister states even if they themselves would not allow the marriage.
Yet we do not hear screeds from the Far Right on how this violates the people’s [or state legislatures’] right to define marriage in their own states.
So don’t be fooled by the Far Right’s claimed fealty to respect for the rule of law or state sovereignty. That’s not what this is about.
Do the Far Right groups demand that states revoke recognition of all out-of-state marriages that could not be performed within the state?
Of course not. Because this has nothing to do with state sovereignty. It has everything to do with animus against gays and lesbians. Statements against the AG’s opinion should be recognized – and condemned – as such.