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Same-Sex Divorce Considered In Maryland Courts

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Maryland resident Jessica Port (left) is seeking a divorce from her wife, whom she married in California. Her attorney, Michele Zavos (right), says Maryland courts have been divided on same-sex divorces.
Armando Trull
Maryland resident Jessica Port (left) is seeking a divorce from her wife, whom she married in California. Her attorney, Michele Zavos (right), says Maryland courts have been divided on same-sex divorces.

A few months ago, Jessica Port decided to get a divorce.

“We parted ways, and we're looking to get a divorce just like any other couple in the state of Maryland would apply for a divorce," she says.

The educator from Hyattsville did what every other person in Maryland does in this case.

"The divorce was filed in Prince George's County. The divorce was denied," says Michele Zavos, Port's attorney.

Zavos says the judge refused to grant the divorce because Port was married to another woman in California, and same-sex marriages are illegal in Maryland. But Maryland courts have been divided on these cases, says Zavos.

“There are at least three cases. One of which was granted in Anne Arundel County, one of which was denied in Prince George's County, and another just recently denied in Baltimore City," she says.

Port says being denied a divorce could be costly.

“I have aright to protect my assets: my house, my car, any earnings that I make," she says.

Port says there are other penalties as well.

“There's always the emotional piece. We would like to close this chapter and move on and that can be a little bit challenging. Also if any one of us ever wants to get legally married again, we need to be able to do that," she says.

So Port decided to take her case to the Maryland Special Court of Appeals. Last February, Maryland's attorney general, Doug Gansler, issued a 50-page opinion saying Maryland should recognize same-sex marriages that were legally performed in other states.

"The attorney general also said Maryland had precedent that had recognized out-of-state marriages as valid, even though the people could not have entered into those marriages in Maryland," says Jana Singer, who teaches law at the University of Maryland.

"I live in Maryland, I own a house in Maryland, and I think I that have the right to have all the rights and protections of every other citizen here," Port says.

Port says being allowed to divorce is also a matter of fairness.

Md. Attorney General Opinion: Out-Of-State Marriages
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