Baltimore County officials are reviewing their options after an arbitrator ruled Tuesday that members of the county police union who were married in same-sex ceremonies are entitled to county benefits.
Don Mohler, a county spokesman, said county attorneys are reviewing the decision, which they received Tuesday.
"The issue for us is complying with state requirements," Mohler said. "The state hasn't taken a clear position."
The union went to arbitration in September after two employees were denied county benefits for their same-sex spouses after marriage ceremonies outside of Maryland.
The ruling, sent to the county and the police union Tuesday, says the county must provide health care, bereavement and other benefits contained in the union contract equally to same-sex and heterosexual couples.
"We're pleased with the arbitrator's decision in this case," said Cole Weston, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4, the union that represents officers in the department.
The benefits in the contract should "apply to all of our members equally," Weston said.
The issue is complicated by the fact that the state has not been clear on how to handle the issue, Mohler said.
The state doesn't officially recognize marriages performed in states where it is legal.
Last year, Attorney General Douglas Gansler issued an opinion saying that state courts would likely recognize such marriages—if such a case were filed.
"While the matter is not free from all doubt, in our view, the court is likely to respect the law of other states and recognize a same-sex marriage contracted validly in another jurisdiction," the opinion states. "In light of Maryland’s developing public policy concerning intimate same-sex relationships, the court would not readily invoke the public policy exception to the usual rule of recognition."
Mohler said there's no timeline on when the county will decide if it can and will challenge the ruling.
"It just happened," Mohler said. "We just got it today."