Cumberland Times-News

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November 29, 2012

Maryland same-sex couples can marry Jan. 1

In 19-page opinion, attorney general says counties can begin taking applications Thursday

BALTIMORE — Maryland court clerks can begin accepting applications for same-sex marriage licenses immediately and issue them as soon as Dec. 6 as long as they specify that the licenses don’t take effect until Jan. 1, Attorney General Doug Gansler wrote in a legal opinion Thursday.

Gansler also noted in the 19-page opinion that marriage ceremonies may be performed starting Jan. 1, when the law is scheduled to take effect.

While Maryland’s same-sex marriage law was approved by voters earlier this month, there were questions about how the law would go into effect, because Jan. 1 is a holiday when courts would be closed.

Technically, Gansler said clerks may begin issuing marriage licenses after the law is formally proclaimed to have been approved by the voters, an action Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to take on Thursday. Clerks of court then may begin issuing marriage licenses, if they bear a Jan. 1 effective date.

Gansler also noted that a clerk of court can choose not to issue licenses until Jan. 2. That would make the licenses effective at 6 a.m. on Jan. 4.

“For instance, a circuit court in one jurisdiction may anticipate a high volume of applications from couples wanting to marry on Jan. 1, 2013, and may wish to use the time before then to spread out what would otherwise be an unmanageable administrative burden,” Gansler wrote. “Other jurisdictions may determine that such advance processing is not necessary in order to issue licenses promptly after the effective date. We believe the legislative scheme allows for this type of administrative flexibility.”

The attorney general also wrote that if a clerk of court issues a license earlier than Dec. 30, but with a Jan. 1 effective date, the provisions of a 48-hour waiting period are satisfied. He noted that same-sex couples who have already been married in a state where it was legal to do so before Jan. 1, 2013, cannot get a license and marry in Maryland, as long as the out-of-state marriage remains intact.

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