Maryland lawmakers will hold committee hearings on a bill making civil divorce contingent on the petitioners’ fulfillment of religious divorce requirements. Thursday’s House and Senate hearings are on legislation introduced by two Baltimore-area Democrats, state Delegate Sandy Rosenberg and state Sen. Lisa Gladden, that would allow a spouse facing a civil divorce suit to require an affidavit from the filer stating that all barriers to remarriage have been removed. The legislation is modeled on a New York State law aimed at addressing the plight of agunot, or Jewish women whose ex-husbands refuse to provide a religious divorce, making the women ineligible for Jewish remarriage. In many cases the men remain recalcitrant even after they have remarried. Jewish law brands as outcasts children born out of wedlock to Jewish women; in practice it does not similarly stigmatize out-of-wedlock children of Jewish men. Attempts to pass such a law in Maryland, which has a substantial Orthodox community, have not succeeded. If approved in committee, the bill would be voted on by the full House and Senate, then would be subject to the governor’s approval.
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