Same-sex couples and their supporters in Maryland are likely excited that state voters recently legalized same-sex marriage. While the measure to uphold the law passed by only a margin of 52 percent, it is an important step for same-sex couples seeking the rights of marriage and same-sex divorce that have been denied them in the past. It is also one example of the growing support for granting the same marital rights to same-sex couples as are already enjoyed by their hetero counterparts.

One study conducted by the Pew Research Center indicated that support for gay marriage jumped to 49 percent just before this year’s presidential election was held. That was in addition to another significant jump from 39 percent to 48 percent seen from 2008 to earlier in 2012. With that increase came the respective decline in voter opposition to same-sex marriage.

The legalization of same-sex marriage in Maryland also represents a change in terminology. Gay couples who engage in such a commitment to each other will be considered as being in an official marriage, rather than a civil union. That’s significant because civil unions do not confer the exact same rights as marriages, including the right to file joint federal tax returns and obtaining other federal benefits like social security.

So, while that rift between federal and state law remains, the action by Maryland voters represents an advance in the fight for same-sex couples to gain greater equality. Same-sex couples in Maryland will now enjoy the right to marry their partners just like any other couple.

Of course, with that right to marriage comes a corresponding obligation under the law in terms of divorce if a marriage does not work out. In such a fluid legal situation, couples who are considering dissolution of their union will want to investigate all of their rights and responsibilities under state and federal law.

Source: The Review, “Maryland narrowly passes gay marriage into law on election day,” Rose McNeill, Nov. 19, 2012