I am frequently asked, as a Florida Divorce Attorney, whether it is possible to obtain a same-sex divorce if a gay/lesbian couple where married in a State the allowed such marriages. Unfortunately, those states that do not recognize same-sex marriage generally do not recognize same-sex divorce (this includes Florida). This is because granting a same-sex couple a divorce is basically a legal recognition that the couple was married in the first place, something these states are not willing to do. If you are in one of these states, obtaining a divorce might require establishing residency in a state that recognizes gay/lesbian marriage, meaning you'd have to move to that state for six months, a year, or even more.
Since most states, and the federal government, don't recognize gay marriages, many same-sex couples are left with no way to officially divorce. This can leave the couple in limbo for years.
Judges in Maryland are inconsistent about granting divorces for gay couples who married in another state. Lawyers in Friday's case say they believe judges have granted about a half a dozen divorces for gay couples, but their clients, Jessica Port and Virginia Anne Cowan, and at least one other couple were recently denied.
There is currently a case poised to be heard by the Maryland Supreme Court that could help same-sex couples find some legal remedies when they are seeking divorce. The case heading up to Maryland's High Court involves two women married in California but seeking a divorce in Maryland. The trial court told the women in 2010 that because the State did not recognize their marriage, the Maryland court could not grant them a divorce. Maryland does not currently allow same-sex marriages, but lawyers for the women told the seven-member court that it would be unprecedented for the state not to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere.
Six states and the District of Columbia currently permit gay couples to marry. Those states are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Lawmakers in Washington state have also passed a law permitting gay couples to marry, but it doesn't take effect until June and could be put on hold by a proposed voter referendum seeking to overturn the law.
With Maryland hearing a case like this, hopefully other States will follow the lead and allow those who are legally married to at the very least obtain a same-sex divorce.