This story was updated at 12:30 p.m. Nov. 30.
Same-sex couples in Maryland will be able to marry on New Year’s Day after all, according to the attorney general.
Voters upheld the state’s new law granting marriage rights to same-sex couples earlier this month, but it doesn’t officially take effect until the first of the year.
State lawyers initially said that because Jan. 1 is a holiday — and there’s a two-day wait before licenses take effect — that same-sex couples could not marry until Jan. 4.
But a formal opinion from Attorney General Douglas Gansler, issued Thursday, says that as long as the effective date is printed on the license, courts can issue them as soon as Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) formally certifies that the law has been approved by voters, which he is expected to do Thursday.
If a jurisdiction’s licenses do not specify the effective date, they cannot be issued until Jan. 1, according to Gansler.
The first ceremonies can begin Jan. 1, he wrote.
Same-sex couples who already have been married in another state will not able to marry in Maryland, “as long as the out-of-state marriage remains intact,” Gansler wrote.
Del. Mary Washington (D-Dist. 43) of Baltimore said many couples wanted to be married Jan 1. and that having their weddings on New Year’s Day was symbolic.
“This starts a new day and a new time,” she said.
The opinion provides much-needed clarity on the administrative process that couples will need to navigate to obtain a license, said Susan Silber, a family lawyer who sits on the board of Equality Maryland.
Gansler’s recommendation that couples be allowed to choose the terminology they prefer — such as “spouse” or “husband and husband” and “wife and wife” — if they are married by the court was thoughtful advice, Silber said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland also praised the opinion.
“There are many people who have literally waited a lifetime to get married, and they should not have to wait any longer than necessary after Dec. 31 to do so,” David Rocah, a staff attorney for the organization, said in a statement Thursday.