LGBT rights in Maryland
Map of USA MD.svg
StatusLegal since 1999, codified in 2020
Gender identityTransgender people allowed to change legal gender without surgery
Discrimination protectionsProtections for both sexual orientation and gender identity[1]
(see below)
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage since 2013
AdoptionSame-sex couples permitted to adopt

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Maryland enjoy the same rights as non-LGBT people. Maryland has had statewide protections against discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation since 2001 and gender identity since 2014. Legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland was approved by voters on November 6, 2012 and went into effect on January 1, 2013. Today, the state of Maryland is regarded as one of the most LGBT-friendly states in the country, with a 2017 Public Religion Research Institute showing that two-thirds of Marylanders supported same-sex marriage.[2] Additionally, a ban on conversion therapy on minors became effective on October 1, 2018.[3][4][5] In October 2020, Montgomery County within Maryland passed unanimously an ordinance that implemented a LGBTIQ+ bill of rights.[6][7][8]

History and legality of same-sex sexual activity

Same-sex sexual activity was criminalized in the Province of Maryland. The colonial law in Maryland mandated the death penalty for buggery. In 1793, a decade after independence, the state legislature adopted a statute punishing sodomy between free men with hard labor, with the possibility of being whipped for any misconduct. The death penalty was proscribed for slaves, though the courts could commute the sentence to 14 years at hard labor. In 1809, the penalty for sodomy was changed to 1–10 years' imprisonment and the distinction between slaves and free men was eliminated. The first recorded sodomy case in Maryland, also the first such case in the entire United States, occurred in 1810. In Davis v. State, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld, by a vote of 4-1, an indictment that charged Davis with sodomy.[9]

During the period before World War I, many cities established so-called vice commissions to investigate reports of "perversion". The state also created a commission which reported in 1915 of cases of fellatio (oral sex), "heterosexual masochism and sadism" and homosexual activity in several cities, notably Baltimore. In 1916, as a result of the report, the state enacted a new law prohibiting oral sex, whether heterosexual or homosexual, with a penalty of up to 10 years' imprisonment and/or a fine of 1,000 dollars. The second sodomy case in the state occurred in 1941, whereby a heterosexual physician was prosecuted for acts of sodomy, in Berger v. State. Another heterosexual case happened a few years later in 1952; in Haley v. State, the Court of Appeals unanimously sustained the state's rights to prosecute heterosexual "unnatural and perverted practices".[9]

A study published in 1956 showed that over a two-and-a-half-year period (1952-1954) 26 "homosexual offenders" went before the courts. 8 of these were charged with sodomy (i.e. anal intercourse), with two sentenced to mental institutions and the remaining six sentenced to between 1 to 8 years' imprisonment (below the maximum 10 years). 13 were sentenced for "unnatural and perverted practices", with all of them involving cases of oral sex or mutual masturbation. Penalty ranched from probation to usually less than a year in prison. Another 4 were charged with "assault", and another was charged for "disturbing the peace", which involved "anal intercourse with adults". All of the offenders were men, and 54% were white and 46% were black. A challenge to the sodomy case was rejected by the Court of Appeals in 1956 in State v. Black. Numerous more sodomy court cases occurred over the following years.[9]

In 1970, a state commission recommended decriminalizing "private homosexual acts of adults", by a vote of 12-2. The commission noted that practices in Maryland included frequent entrapment by "decoy" police, and suicides occasionally occurred from sodomy arrests. The Maryland General Assembly refused to follow the recommendations of the commission. In 1976, the Senate passed a bill to repeal the sodomy law, but it failed to pass the House. Repeal bills subsequently passed the Senate twice, in 1977 and 1987, but were rejected in the House. A legal challenge to the law on the grounds of privacy violations was rejected by the Court of Appeals in 1980 in Kelly v. State.[9]

All laws against non-commercial, private consensual sex were overturned by Maryland state courts. The decision in Schochet v. State (1990) invalidated laws against private consensual sex between heterosexual adults.[10] In 1998, the decision in Williams v. Glendening by Judge Richard T. Rombro invalidated laws against private consensual oral sex between persons of the same sex.[11] A subsequent settlement in Williams in 1999 invalidated laws against private consensual anal sex.[12][13] On February 20, 2020, the House of Delegates approved a bill to repeal the unenforceable and unconstitutional sodomy ban.[14] It was approved by the Senate, with amendments, on March 18. The House of Delegates accepted the amendments the same day. The codified law took effect and was implemented on October 1, 2020.[15][16]

July 2021 police raids

In July 2021, several men under police raids within Maryland got arrested enforced for gay sex, but not heterosexual sex - under "perverted practices" (oral sex) still on the law books. Maryland's General Assembly in 2020 voted to repeal the anal sex law, but it appears that the Senate amended the bill to not repeal the oral sex ban - and so was left intact.[17][18][19]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Main article: Same-sex marriage in Maryland

In 1973, Maryland became the first state to ban civil marriage between persons of the same sex, with the passage of legislation amending the family law statute.[20]

Same-sex marriage has been legal since January 1, 2013.[21] In 2012, Governor Martin O'Malley introduced a same-sex marriage bill to the Maryland General Assembly. After much debate, the law permitting same-sex marriage, known as the Civil Marriage Protection Act,[22] was approved by the House of Delegates in a 72–67 vote on February 17, 2012,[23] and was approved by the Senate in a 25–22 vote on February 23, 2012.[24] Governor O'Malley signed the law on March 1, 2012.[25] The law took effect on January 1, 2013, after 52.4% of voters approved Maryland Question 6 in a referendum held on November 6, 2012.[21] The vote was hailed as a watershed moment by gay rights activists and marked the first time marriage rights in the United States were extended to same-sex couples by popular vote.[26] Roman Catholic authorities and African-American religious leaders throughout the state had opposed the legislation, saying it would conflict with the best interests of society and threaten religious liberty.[27]

Since 2008, a limited form of domestic partnership has been available to all unmarried couples at least 18 years of age, who can verify their interdependent relationship through documentation.[28] Legal protections for partners include hospital visitation, end-of-life decisions, and joint property rights.[29] Since 2009, Maryland provides employee benefits to the same-sex partners of state employees.[30] The state has recognized valid same-sex marriages performed in other states and jurisdictions since 2010.[31]

Adoption and parenting

State law permits single LGBT adults and married same-sex couples to petition to adopt.[32]

Lesbian couples have access to in vitro fertilization. State law recognizes the non-genetic, non-gestational mother as a legal parent to a child born via donor insemination, but only if the parents are married.[33] In 2015, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law requiring health insurers to offer fertility treatments as a benefit, regardless of a person's sexual orientation. Governor Larry Hogan did not sign or veto the bill, and it became law without a signature.[34][35]

Surrogacy arrangements are legal and recognized in the state. Despite no explicit laws on the matter, in 2007 the Maryland Court of Appeals made a ruling approving of gestational surrogacy arrangements. Traditional surrogacy arrangements on the other hand may result in potential legal complications; in 2000 the Attorney-General issued an opinion stating that "surrogacy contracts that involve the payment of a fee to the birth mother are, in most instances, illegal and unenforceable under Maryland law." The state treats different-sex and same-sex couples equally under the same terms and conditions.[36]

Discrimination protections

Participants at the Baltimore Pride parade in 2013
Participants at the Baltimore Pride parade in 2013
2019 Baltimore Pride parade
2019 Baltimore Pride parade

Further information: LGBT employment discrimination in the United States

State law has protected against unfair discrimination based on sexual orientation since 2001 and gender identity since 2014.[37]

On May 15, 2001, Governor Parris Glendening signed into law the Antidiscrimination Act of 2001 passed by the Maryland General Assembly, which added protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation.[38] Opponents of the law collected enough petition signatures to put it to a referendum in the 2002 elections, but the petition was successfully challenged in court, and the Act took effect on November 21, 2001.[39][40]

Before the state anti-discrimination statute included gender identity, five jurisdictions—Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Hyattsville,[41] and Montgomery County—protected against discrimination based on gender identity.[42] Nineteen of the 20 remaining counties without protections lacked the authority to establish them.[43] Legislation to amend the state anti-discrimination law to include gender identity, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013,[44] was introduced in January 2013.[45] Although the bill had 23 senators as cosponsors, on March 14, 2013, a Senate committee rejected it on a 6–5 vote.[43] Similar bills had been rejected in previous years.[46] The bill was introduced again in 2014, approved 8-3 by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 20 and passed 32-15 by the Senate on March 4.[47][48] The House of Delegates passed the bill on an 82–57 vote on March 27, 2014.[49] On May 15, 2014, Governor Martin O'Malley signed the bill,[1] the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014, which took effect on October 1, 2014.

Legislation in Maryland is subject to popular referendum, and conservative activists mounted an effort to put the law's expanded protections to a statewide referendum by collecting the 55,736 signatures of registered voters needed to place the measure on the ballot.[50] They needed to submit 18,579 signatures to the Secretary of State by May 31 and the remaining 37,157 by June 30.[51] The petitioners failed to submit the required number of signatures by those deadlines,[52] and the law took effect as scheduled on October 1, 2014.[53]

Hate crime law

The state's hate crime law provides additional legal penalties for a crime motivated by the victim's perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity.[54]

Gay or trans panic defense abolition

In April 2021, the Maryland General Assembly (House vote 136-0 and Senate vote 47-0) passed a bill (HB231) to abolish the common-law gay or trans panic defense.[55] The Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan took no action on the bill (HB231) and goes into legal effect on October 1, 2021. Enacted under Article II, Section 17(c) of the Maryland Constitution - Chapter 369.[56]

Commission on LGBTIQ+ Affairs

In April 2021, the Maryland General Assembly (Senate vote 38-8 and House vote 107-28) passed a bill (HB130) to establish the “Commission on LGBTIQ+ Affairs” within Maryland. The Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan took no action on the bill (HB130) and goes into legal effect on October 1, 2021. Enacted under Article II, Section 17(c) of the Maryland Constitution - Chapter 648.[57]

LGBTIQ+ bill of rights

In October 2020, Montgomery County within Maryland passed unanimously an ordinance that implemented a LGBTIQ+ bill of rights.[6][7][8]

Transgender rights

In 2015, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law to make it easier for transgender people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates without undergoing sex reassignment surgery or sterilization. Governor Larry Hogan took no action on the bill, and it became law without a signature on October 1, 2015.[34][35] The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will issue an updated birth certificate upon receipt of certification from a licensed healthcare provider confirming the applicant's gender identity.

In 2019, the General Assembly passed a law allowing for an "X" gender marker on identity documents issued by the Motor Vehicle Administration. The bill also removed the requirement that people changing their gender marker provide legal or medical documentation.[58] Governor Hogan took no action on the bill, and it went into effect on October 1, 2019.[59][60][61] The Maryland State Board of Elections also began accepting "X" gender markers on voter registration forms on October 1, 2019.[62] As of 2022, gender X is still not available on Maryland birth certificates.

From 2026, the University of Maryland will make gender X option available on forms and documents along side male and female options for student enrollment - as announced in May 2022.[63]

Two further transgender legal reforms

In April 2021, two bills passed the Maryland General Assembly. The first bill (HB39) that passed repeals an archaic 1971 Maryland law that required transgender individuals to publish their names within a newspaper, argued to be a breach of privacy, before they even can legally change their name on a birth certificate. The second bill corrects a 2002 Maryland hate crime law that now explicitly includes “gender identity” as a completely separate category (instead of being included under the sexual orientation definition). The Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan took no action on the two bills and automatically legally goes into effect on October 1, 2021.[64][65]

Conversion therapy

See also: List of U.S. jurisdictions banning conversion therapy

In April 2018, the General Assembly passed a bill to ban conversion therapy on minors. The legislation passed the Senate by 34 votes to 12, and the House 95 votes to 27. In May 2018, the bill was signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan, and went into effect on October 1, 2018.[3][4][5]

In January 2019, a constitutional challenge against the conversion therapy ban was filed in federal court.[66] In September 2019, District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow dismissed the challenge, stating that "[The conversion therapy ban] doesn't prevent licensed therapists from expressing their personal views about conversion therapy to minor clients…. The law only prohibits conversion therapy when it is conducted by licensed practitioners on minors and prohibits only speech uttered in the process of conducting conversion therapy".[67]

LGBT education in public schools

In August 2019, the Maryland Department of Education announced it would provide resources on LGBT history and other educational resources sometime by mid-2020 in all Maryland public schools.[68][69]

In April 2022, a bill (HB850) passed the Maryland General Assembly that will include both sexual orientation and gender identity inclusive policies within all public schools in Maryland and plus safety outcomes for LGBT students. The Governor of Maryland is yet to sign or veto the bill.[70][71][72]

LGBT military veterans honorable discharges

In April 2022, the Maryland General Assembly (Senate vote 47-0 and House vote 109-1) passed a bill HB1380 to automatically return retrospectively “honorable discharges” to LGBT individuals - who lived within Maryland at the time. A conference committee has to sort out the differences between bills passed with amendments, before the bill goes straight to the Governor’s desk.[73]

Public opinion

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that 66% of Maryland residents supported same-sex marriage, while 25% were opposed and 9% were unsure.[2] Additionally, 77% supported an anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity. 17% were opposed.

Public opinion for LGBT anti-discrimination laws in Maryland
Poll source Date(s)
Margin of
% support % opposition % no opinion
Public Religion Research Institute January 2-December 30, 2019 967 +/- 0.4 74% 19% 7%
Public Religion Research Institute January 3-December 30, 2018 949 +/- 0.4 70% 23% 7%
Public Religion Research Institute April 5-December 23, 2017 1,220 +/- 0.6 77% 17% 6%
Public Religion Research Institute April 29, 2015-January 7, 2016 1,349 +/- 0.4 73% 22% 5%

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal
(Since 1999 - codified in law since 2020[15])
Equal age of consent (16)
Anti-discrimination laws for both sexual orientation and gender identity in all areas
(Since 2001 for sexual orientation and since 2014 for gender identity)
LGBTIQ+ bill of rights
(Since 2020 in Montgomery County only)[74]
Same-sex marriages
(Since 2013, via a state referendum)
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. domestic partnership)
(Since 2008)
Both joint and stepchild adoption by same-sex couples
LGBT individuals in the Maryland national guard service serve openly
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people allowed to serve openly in the US military
(Since 2011 - federal policy)
Transgender people allowed to serve openly in the military
(Most Transgender personnel allowed to serve openly since 2021)[75]
Transvestites allowed to serve openly in the military
Intersex people allowed to serve openly in the military
(Current DoD policy bans "Hermaphrodites" from serving or enlisting in the military)[76]
Right to change legal gender without surgery
(Since 2015)
"Gay or trans panic defense" under common-law abolished or repealed
(Since 2021)[56][55]
Access to IVF for lesbian couples and parantage on birth certificates
Third gender option
(Since 2019 for driver's licenses, currently not available for birth certificates)
Conversion therapy banned on minors
(Since 2018)
Surrogacy arrangements legal for gay male couples and parantage on birth certificates
MSMs allowed to donate blood
(Since 2020; 3-month deferral period - federal policy)[77]

See also


  1. ^ a b "GAM-SB0212 History 2014 Regular Session". Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "PRRI – American Values Atlas".
  3. ^ a b "Maryland officially bans conversion therapy for LGBTI minors". Gay Star News. May 15, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "GAM-SB1028 History 2018 Regular Session".
  5. ^ a b Campaign, Human Rights. "Maryland State Legislature Passes Bill to Protect LGBTQ Youth". Human Rights Campaign.
  6. ^ a b "Montgomery County Council unanimously passes LGBTQ Bill of Rights". October 8, 2020.
  7. ^ a b "Council Enacts LGBTQ Bill of Rights". October 7, 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Montgomery County Passes LGBTQ Bill of Rights – NBC4 Washington". October 6, 2020. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  9. ^ a b c d "The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States - Maryland".
  10. ^ "Schochet v. State". October 9, 1990. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  11. ^ "Opinions, Advice and Legislation Quarterly News". 1999. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  12. ^ "Chapter 5: The Legacy of Discriminatory State Laws, Policies, and Practices, 1945-Present" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2016. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  13. ^ "The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States - Maryland". Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  14. ^ "House Bill 81". LegiScan.
  15. ^ a b "Md. Sodomy law officially repealed". October 2020.
  16. ^ "Here Are Two Dozen Bills Becoming Law Without Hogan's Signature". Maryland Matters. May 8, 2020.
  17. ^ "Four men arrested for breaking sodomy law in Maryland police raid / LGBTQ Nation".
  18. ^ "Gay men arrested under Md. Sodomy law in adult bookstore raid". July 21, 2021.
  19. ^ "Maryland Cops Arrest Gay Men for 'Perverted Sexual Practice'". July 21, 2021.
  20. ^ Peterson, Kavan (November 3, 2004). "50-state rundown on gay marriage laws". Pew Research Center.
  21. ^ a b "Maryland upholds same-sex marriage law". Retrieved November 7, 2012.
  22. ^ "House Bill 438 (2012)". Maryland General Assembly. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  23. ^ "Gay Marriage Bill Clears Maryland House". February 17, 2012. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  24. ^ Derek Yiu (February 24, 2012). "Maryland Senate cheers same-sex marriage equality". Gay Star News. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  25. ^ "Maryland Gay Marriage Bill Saved By Last-Minute Converts". February 19, 2012. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  26. ^ Honan, Edith (November 7, 2012). "Maryland, Maine, Washington approve gay marriage". Reuters. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  27. ^ Broadwater, Luke (November 9, 2011). "Md. bishops call on Catholics to oppose same-sex marriage". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
  28. ^ "Senate Bill 566. Limited Domestic Partner Benefits Bill (2008)". Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  29. ^ "Legislation: Recordation and Transfer Taxes – Exemptions – Domestic Partners". November 23, 2008. Archived from the original on November 23, 2008. Retrieved November 2, 2013.
  30. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures: "States offering benefits for same-sex partners of state employees", accessed April 16, 2011
  31. ^ Doug Gansler (February 23, 2010). "Marriage – Whether Out-of-state Same-sex Marriage that is Valid in the State of Celebration May be recognized In Maryland" (PDF). Attorney General of Maryland.
  32. ^ "Maryland Adoption Law". December 9, 2009. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  33. ^ "Maryland's equality profile". Movement Advancement Project.
  34. ^ a b "New LGBT protections to take effect without Gov. Hogan's signature". Washington Post.
  35. ^ a b "Victory: Maryland General Assembly Approves Birth Certificates Consistent with Gender Identity and Infertility Benefits Parity". March 24, 2015.
  36. ^ "What You Need to Known About Surrogacy in Maryland". American Surrogacy.
  37. ^ "Maryland Non-Discrimination Law". Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  38. ^ "Senate Bill 205". Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  39. ^ "Gay rights law set for referendum". The Baltimore Sun. July 20, 2001.
  40. ^ "Maryland's Antidiscrimination Act Goes into Effect After ACLU Defeats Attempts to Derail Landmark Law". ACLU. November 21, 2001.
  41. ^ "Hyattsville, Md., Passes Human Rights Act: City Council votes unanimously for LGBT-inclusive bill prohibiting discrimination". December 3, 2013. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  42. ^ "Baltimore County Council Passes Gender Identity Protection Ordinance". Retrieved May 20, 2012.
  43. ^ a b "Maryland Gender-Identity Bill fails to pass Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee". March 14, 2013. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  44. ^ "Senate Bill 449 (2013). Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013". Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  45. ^ "Maryland lawmakers introduce transgender rights bill". Washington Blade. January 29, 2013. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  46. ^ "Maryland trans bill set to die in committee". Washington Blade. March 21, 2012.
  47. ^ "Maryland Senate committee approves transgender rights bill". Washington Blade. February 20, 2014.
  48. ^ "Maryland Senate approves transgender rights bill". Washington Blade. March 4, 2014.
  49. ^ "Maryland transgender rights bill receives final approval". Washington Blade. March 27, 2014.
  50. ^ "Md. Group Launches Referendum Effort For Gender Identity Discrimination Bill". April 29, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  51. ^ John Riley (May 14, 2014). "Squabble over Signature Gatherers – Metro Weekly". Metro Weekly. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  52. ^ Charing, Steve (September 23, 2014). "Md. trans law takes effect Oct. 1". Washington Blade. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  53. ^ "Top Things To Know About New Laws In Maryland". CBS Baltimore. September 28, 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  54. ^ "Hate Crimes". Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  55. ^ a b "Maryland HB231 | 2021 | Regular Session".
  56. ^ a b "Md. To ban LGBTQ panic defense". June 2021.
  57. ^ "Maryland HB130 | 2021 | Regular Session".
  58. ^ "Vehicle Laws - Licenses, Identification Cards, and Moped Operator's Permits - Indication of Applica". General Assembly of Maryland.
  59. ^ Schere, Dan (May 24, 2019). "Governor Vetoes Montgomery Delegate's Tuition Bill for 'Dreamers'". Bethesda Magazine.
  60. ^ "Governor Hogan Announces Legislative Actions". Office of Governor Larry Hogan.
  61. ^ "Bill Allowing Unspecified Gender on Licenses Passes Maryland Senate". Nbcwashington. February 22, 2019.
  62. ^ Wood, Pamela. "Maryland voter registration to allow for 'X' gender identity". Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  63. ^ "UMD plans to include "X" as nonbinary gender mark option in IT system". May 10, 2022.
  64. ^ "Md. General Assembly adjourns after passing panic defense, name change bills". April 14, 2021.
  65. ^ "Maryland HB39 | 2021 | Regular Session".
  66. ^ "Federal lawsuit seeks to overturn Maryland's ban on conversion therapy". Baltimore Sun. January 18, 2019.
  67. ^ "Federal judge rejects hate group's attempt to overturn 'ex-gay' therapy ban in Maryland". LGBTQ Nation. September 24, 2019.
  68. ^ Assunção, Muri. "Maryland to require schools to teach LGBTQ history".
  69. ^ Watts, Lindsay (August 15, 2019). "Maryland schools adding LGBT, disability rights to classroom curricula". FOX 5 DC.
  70. ^ "Legislation - HB0850".
  71. ^ "Md. General Assembly passes inclusive schools bill". April 14, 2022.
  72. ^ "Maryland HB850 | 2022 | Regular Session".
  73. ^ "MD HB1380 | 2022 | Regular Session". LegiScan. April 11, 2022. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  74. ^ "Maryland's Council Unanimously Passes LGBT Bill of Rights".
  75. ^ "Biden reverses Trump ban on transgender people in military". Associated Press. April 20, 2021.
  76. ^ a b "Medical Conditions That Can Keep You from Joining the Military". May 10, 2021.
  77. ^ McNamara, Audrey (April 2, 2020). "FDA eases blood donation requirements for gay men amid "urgent" shortage". CBS News.