Same-sex couples can marry Jan. 1, attorney general says

Maryland courts can issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting in December, as long as the effective date is Jan. 1, according to an opinion issued this afternoon by Attorney General Doug Gansler.

The 19-page opinion will likely lead to a slew of New Year's Eve weddings in the Free State, as gay couples who've long waited for the law to change can finally marry at midnight.

It has been clear that Maryland's new law legalizing same-sex marriage would take effect Jan. 1 if approved at referendum, but many believed the first licenses would be issued a few days later because of the New Year holiday and a mandatory 48-hour waiting period.

Gansler, however, determined that courts clerks could issue marriage licenses with the Jan. 1 effective date as early as Dec. 6, the date the governor can "formally proclaim" that voters approved same-sex marriage at the ballot.

The measure, known as Question 6, was approved 52 percent to 48 percent in this month's election.

The attorney general also opined that gay couples who have valid marriage licenses in other states cannot receive a new Maryland license -- a restriction that also applies to heterosexual couples.