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Out-of-State Same-Sex Marriage in Maryland?

By Justin B. Terry-Smith

March 23, 2010

In 2006, on Memorial Day weekend, I found out that I was HIV positive. I didn't think I'd ever be loved or love someone else at all. I also felt bad because I couldn't have children and my parents would be so disappointed in me. Being in a relationship was the furthest thing from my mind.

When I started to date I told the men I was interested in that I was HIV positive. I wanted to clear the air first and didn't want it hanging over my head that I had the chance to tell them and I didn't. Then at a fundraiser I met the one: my husband, Dr. Philip B. Terry-Smith.

Wedding Video of Justin and Philip B. Terry-Smith

When we met we flirted and got to know one another. We exchanged numbers and I told him, "Before anything happens I need to tell you something." He asked, "What is it?" "I'm HIV positive," I stated. He then asked me for my number and I his, and the rest was history.

Three and a half years later we were married in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Now we are focused on buying a house together and maybe even thinking about having a child. Not everyone is that lucky -- it's hard to find the one you love, especially when you're HIV positive.

After the wedding my mother and stepfather called and yelled, "Congratulations!" My father and his girlfriend also congratulated me. I felt that going up to Massachusetts was romantic and I loved Provincetown because it was very beautiful. I was so happy, and it was great -- UNTIL I got home.

I felt that marrying my husband in another state wasn't what I originally dreamed of for my wedding. I didn't like the fact that I had to travel hundreds of miles to do something that so many people take for granted. When we got home I was happy to be at home with my husband, but also sad because our marriage and love wasn't recognized by the state of Maryland.

This February, Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler gave a multi-page opinion stating that Maryland should recognize same-sex marriages that are performed in other states. Maryland state law from 1973 says that only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in the state. However, there are no laws or court cases regarding recognition of marriages legally performed in other places. So that being said I think I can say that the Free State which I call home is finally going in the right direction.

Some Maryland Lawmakers Plan to Fight Gansler's Gay Marriage Opinion

A News Channel 8 report featuring Justin and his husband, Philip.

After the AG's opinion I was ecstatic. People can now get married in D.C. [where gay couples can legally marry] and come back to Maryland. I saw an article about a Maryland gay couple that is moving to D.C., because their marriage wasn't being recognized in Maryland. They put their house up for sale and everything. The AG's opinion came out a couple of weeks later. My husband also just had his last name changed legally to Terry-Smith. I need to also do the same. Now I hope the "Free State" will actually live up to its name.

Being gay is hard. Being HIV positive is even harder. People asked me if I think that same-sex marriage will lower the HIV infections in the area. All I can say is, "I just don't know. People are going to do what they want to do regardless of marriage, but at least if you're married, you might be likely to think about someone else's needs more than your own, and protect your spouse by protecting yourself."

Send Justin an e-mail.

See Also
HIV/AIDS in the Mid-Atlantic


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Justin's HIV Journal

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith, M.P.H., may be one of the most public African Americans living with HIV: He has his own website, and he's even on YouTube. He is a noted HIV and gay civil rights activist and the creator of "Justin's HIV Journal," a popular blog in which he shares his trials and tribulations of living with HIV. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Justin resides in Laurel, Maryland, with his husband, Dr. Philip Terry-Smith, and their son, Lundyn. Presently, Justin is working toward earning his doctorate in public health. He welcomes your questions.
(Photo credit: Don Harris)

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