Saturday, November 12, 2011

Non-Monogamous Families and the Law, Part 21: Summary of Maryland Laws

Author's Note:

Can someone double-check my interpretation of Maryland's laws here? I was shocked at how vauge and lacking in information there was. There's references to inchoate laws, but I can't find the actual inchoate laws themselves. Also There's no definition for adultery? That's a first...

- Jason


Non-Monogamous Families and the Law, Part 21: Summary of Maryland Laws


Maryland has a law against adultery; however it lacks any specifics on defining adultery (Maryland State Legislature, 2011a). For the purposes of this analysis it is assumed that adultery includes both participating parties, regardless of who has the legal marriage. The punishment for adultery in Maryland is simply a $10 fine (Maryland State Legislature, 2011a), an almost laughable liability compared to other states. Escalating punishment for repeat offence do not appear to apply. Oddly, inchoate offences do not appear to apply to adultery either, leaving liability to only those directly involved.


Though Maryland doesn’t contain a purportation or cohabitation clause with bigamy, the clause that does exist stipulates that a marriage ceremony is prohibited, and not just the legal marriage (Maryland State Legislature, 2011b). This occupies a grey area between purportation and the lack thereof, as the specific type of ceremony is not identified. Because of this liability may extend to non-legal marriage ceremonies Liability is limited to the marryer(s), and not to the marryee(s).

Punishment for bigamy is up to 9 years of imprisonment (Maryland State Legislature, 2011b). Inchoate and escalating punishment does not appear to apply to bigamy, so liability is limited to only those with multiple partners in legal marriage.

Round-Up of Laws:

Maryland’s laws are confusing and written much differently than other states, as such understanding the true impacts is challenging, at best. There is an adultery law, which extends liability to all non-monogamous families, despite the actual punishment being a paltry fine of $10. Bigamy occupies an odd place, with liability extended beyond the baseline only to marriage ceremonies. This should be considered purportation-lite. Maryland’s punishment for bigamy is disproportionate compared to its punishment for adultery.

Non-Monogamous Strategies:

Despite the punishment for adultery being of such a limited sum, it is still under criminal law and is subject to further discriminations (child custody, renting, etc.), so it should not be taken lightly. For non-dyadic non-monogamous families, it is recommended to not have ceremonial marriages, as this would extend the liability the family encounters rather dramatically.


Maryland State Legislature. (2011a). Adultery. (Maryland Code 10-501). Annapolis, MD: Maryland State Legislature.

Maryland State Legislature. (2011a). Bigamy. (Maryland Code 10-502). Annapolis, MD: Maryland State Legislature.

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