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Uncertainty remains after Md. marriage opinion

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Even the experts are uncertain how Maryland courts will now treat legally married same-sex couples.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) promised state agencies would comply with Attorney General Doug Gansler’s finding two weeks ago that Maryland may legally recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages.

But circuit courts that handle family violence protection orders and divorce cases are not bound by O’Malley’s directive and must consider the opinion on its own merits, according to several legal experts who spoke with DC Agenda.

“It’s certainly their prerogative whether to follow that. I would like to think the courts would accept the opinion, but we don’t know,” said Barbara Babb, director of the University of Baltimore’s Center for Families, Children and the Courts.

“Legislative direction would certainly be a help to the courts, but I don’t think it’s necessary for them to do the right thing.”

Family law contains several rights and administrative advantages reserved for married couples and designed to protect families in the event of divorce. If the courts choose to recognize Gansler’s opinion, same-sex married couples would have access to family breakdown services, child support, alimony and division of marital property.

Other safety-net statutes that are currently available to same-sex families but made easier with legal marriage recognition include child-in-need and civil protection orders in the event of neglect or domestic violence.

But it gets more complex during the creation of a family. Stepchild adoption would be significantly streamlined for married same-sex couples, Babb said, but not all marriage certificates are equal.

“Although Maryland currently authorizes second-parent adoption, it would be very clear — assuming the judges follow the attorney general’s opinion,” she said.

But children who have not been formally adopted by their non-biological parent could be left in legal limbo, Babb said, because presumptive parenting rights have not traditionally been recognized in Maryland courts.

“That would be one of the really interesting questions,” she said. “If the second parent hasn’t adopted the child, [would] the court give legal guardianship or legal authority to the non-biological parent? That’s a remaining question that isn’t as clear under the family law statute.

“I would suspect that in the law in the state where the couple was married, both parents would be seen as the child’s parent. If that’s the case, then Maryland would honor that. But the courts have chosen not to follow the de facto parent doctrine, so there are certainly areas of law that the court has taken pretty strident stand on with regard to same-sex couples raising children already.”

Other areas of law where courts extend benefits to married couples, such as the establishment of trusts, wrongful death suits, presumptive claims on estates, mutual debt responsibility and spousal legal immunities, also are dependent on whether courts accept Gansler’s opinion.

A further set of rights for married couples required of third parties are automatic in theory, but may ultimately have to be decided by courts, such as extending health insurance benefits to a spouse, the right to hospital visitation and making funeral decisions.

Jana Singer, a University of Maryland law school professor, said the attorney general’s opinion was legally sound and would be treated with greater weight than an ordinary “friend of the court” brief.

She said that one case could be all that is required to clarify the issue, or it could take many cases in different areas of law.

“If they decide to be narrower, they could say within this particular statute, Maryland law extends recognition in this context,” Singer said. “It’s more likely that we’ll get a broader opinion where they say recognition applies widely to Maryland law statutes.”

Equality Maryland’s study of state law found 425 statutes that utilize marital status of familial relationship as a basis for granting a right, privilege or restriction. Such restrictions, where a spouse has fewer rights than an individual, include conflict of interest prohibitions on areas like awarding of contracts to family members, corporate directorship limitations and exemptions from first right of purchase.

Dan Friedman, Gansler’s counsel and a former University of Maryland professor of constitutional law, was unable to speak publicly on how the courts should rule, but said that Gansler’s opinion was constitutionally valid and the attorney general could not be removed from office for issuing it.

Friedman wrote to House Speaker Michael Busch this week regarding the powers of attorney general after state Del. Don Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel County) threatened impeachment proceedings against Gansler.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland is standing in support of Gansler’s opinion saying the state should recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages due to the doctrine of comity, in which contracts are valid anywhere in the United States if they are valid in the state they were created.

“Unless and until something contrary is said, same-sex families should consider themselves married in the state of Maryland and expect to be treated as such,” said David Rocah, staff attorney for ACLU of Maryland. “But it will take some time for it to be clear what rights are extended to them. All of the things couples did to protect their families, they should continue to do, in addition to expecting to be treated like the married couples they are.”

ACLU, Lambda Legal and Equality Maryland have created an informational sheet on the issue and are publishing it online at www.aclu-md.org.

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Delaware

Delmarva Pride to feature drag, dancing, and more this weekend

Easton and Cambridge to host events

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A scene from Delmarva Pride. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Delmarva Peninsula will hold its annual Pride celebration this weekend, including drag shows, a festival, and much more. 

The Delmarva Pride Center will put on the annual Pride celebration starting on Friday, June 14, and it will go until Sunday to celebrate queer love and acceptance in Delmarva.  

The weekend kicks off on Friday with a free legal clinic in partnership with FreeState Justice at the Academy Art Museum, 106 South St., Easton, Md. Free legal services including name and gender marker changes, criminal record expungements, and peace and protection orders are just some of the services being offered. For more information visit freestate-justice.org.

Then on Friday night, the third annual Pride Drag Show will be at the Avalon Theatre, 40 E Dover St., in Easton. Bring your cash as four drag queens and host Miranda Bryant put on the fundraising show, where 100% of ticket sales go to the Delmarva Pride Center. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and performance begins at 7 p.m. For tickets visit avalonfoundation.org.

On Saturday there will be the Pride festival from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at  S. Harrison and E. Dover Street, in Easton. This free community festival will include vendors, live performances, and more. 

Saturday night the party gets going as Delmarva Pride will host its 2024 Pride Dance. There will be a DJ and drinks available for purchase. This event is for 18 and up and will include a cash bar for anyone 21 and up. No tickets are required. 

To round out your Pride weekend, on Sunday the Delmarva Pride Brunch will be held at ArtBar 2.0, 420b Race St. in Cambridge, Md. Tickets include food, access to the mimosa bar, and a drag performance. Tickets are available here

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Baltimore

People of Pride: Five Marylanders making a difference in the LGBTQ+ community

Baltimore Pride is this weekend

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Jabari Lyles poses for a portrait in East Mount Vernon Place in Baltimore on June 10, 2024. (Photo by Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | One hosts movie nights, karaoke and other events that provide a safe space for LGBTQ people. Another has become a sounding board for customers at his gay bar dealing with pressures of the outside world. And a third beats the pavement to promote political awareness about LGBTQ issues.

These are just some of the things five Baltimoreans the Baltimore Banner is profiling in honor of Baltimore Pride Month are doing in the fight for visibility, support and acceptance of their peers.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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Delaware

Delaware’s Sussex Pride launches free statewide HIV, STI testing

Special program honors National HIV Testing Day on June 27

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Each year on June 27, people across the United States are encouraged to get tested for HIV. This year for Delawareans, it’s easier than ever.

Sussex Pride has partnered with STDCheck to offer free HIV and syphilis testing everywhere in Delaware. There are more than 20 locations across the state, making it simple to find a testing center.  

David Mariner, executive director of Sussex Pride, told the Blade, “We are thrilled with this new partnership with STDcheck. The ultimate goal is to empower individuals with knowledge about their HIV status, provide necessary support, and facilitate early intervention to improve health outcomes in our state.”

Finding a testing center, getting tested, and getting results is simple. Start by finding a lab near you using this link (https://www.stdcheck.com/std-test-center.php). Then call STDcheck at 800-456-2323 and request a free Sussex Pride HIV and/or syphilis test. Make sure to mention Sussex Pride in the call to get the test for free. Then schedule a time and get tested. 

“If you are HIV positive, the sooner you know, the better,” Mariner added. “Early and sustained treatment can help you live a long and healthy life. It can also help protect others.”

This special program is in honor of National HIV Testing Day, created in 1995 to highlight the lifesaving impact of HIV testing. HIV has historically had a disproportionate effect on the LGBTQ community. According to the CDC, 70% of all new cases of HIV in 2021 were among gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men.

The CDC’s theme for this year’s HIV testing day is “Level up your self-love: check your status.” The theme emphasizes, “valuing yourself, showing yourself compassion and respect, and honoring your health needs with self-love,” and the best way to do that is to test.

For more information on Sussex Pride’s testing program visit sussexpride.org/posts/testing/ and for more information on HIV visit CDC.gov/hiv.

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