Same-sex marriages in Md. won’t become official before Jan. 4, state lawyers say

Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery) celebrates on stage at a party in Baltimore on Tuesday after Maryland voters approved same-sex marriages. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

With the passage this week of Question 6, Maryland’s law allowing gay couples to wed will take effect on Jan. 1 — but it will be a few more days until new marriage licenses become official, according to state lawyers.

There are a couple of reasons why. Under existing marriage law in Maryland, a license does not take effect until two days after it is issued. Moreover, Jan. 1 is a state holiday, and the courthouses will be closed.

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So here’s the upshot: A license issued on Jan. 2 would not become effective until Jan. 4, according to David Paulson, a spokesman for the Maryland Attorney’s General’s Office, which has been looking into the issue.

The General Assembly has requested a written opinion, given that some lawmakers assumed gay couples could become married on New Year’s Day, when the law takes effect.

“We are asking because some of legislators believe it was the intent of the legislature that marriages could occur on Jan. 1 — not be delayed due to paperwork,” said Alex Hughes, a senior aide to House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).

Some counties could decide to accept applications before Jan. 2 in anticipation of a post-New Year’s rush, but those licenses wouldn’t take effect any sooner, Paulson said.

The passage of Question 6 upheld the same-sex marriage law that Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) signed in March. Lawmakers made the effective date of the bill Jan. 1 in anticipation of the successful petition drive that gave voters the final say.

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