Earlier this month, the state of Washington began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Now two more states, Maryland and Maine, have similar laws going into effect. Here is an overview of the state laws.
Under the state law, which went into effect in early December, any gender-specific terms in a state statute, rule, or other law affecting the rights of spouses must be construed to be gender neutral. In the November 2012 election, voters rejected a ballot measure that would have overturned the law.
In November 2012, Maine voters approved a ballot measure that allows the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The vote overturned a 2009 ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage.
The governor certified the election results on November 29 and the law takes effect 30 days from that date, on December 29, 2012.
Under Maryland’s Civil Marriage Protection Act of 2012, marriage is permitted between two individuals, regardless of gender, as long as the marriage is not otherwise prohibited under state law. The law is effective January 1, 2013.
The amended law provides equal recognition to same-sex and opposite-sex marriages. Accordingly, employers in Maryland must provide the same benefits to employees in a same-sex marriage that are provided to employees in an opposite-sex marriage.
U.S. Supreme Court
In other recent news, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear two same-sex marriage cases next year. The Supreme Court’s decision will have a significant impact on the rights of same-sex couples.