Provincetown to issue marriage licenses to all same-sex couples
April 14 2004 12:00 AM ET
Despite a Massachusetts state law that may prohibit out-of-state marriages, Provincetown officials will issue licenses to same-sex couples from other states beginning May 17. The Cape Cod town, which has long been a popular vacation spot for gay men and women, faces the question of whether to grant licenses to out-of-state couples without the governor's help. According to USA Today, town clerks are concerned as the deadline to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses rapidly approaches and they still hear no word from the governor regarding a 1913 law barring them from issuing any marriage license "if such marriage would be void if contracted in [another] jurisdiction." Provincetown officials plan to issue licenses to all out-of-state applicants as long as they swear that the marriage will be recognized in their home state. "As far as I'm concerned, it's not our responsibility to know what is legal or not legal in every jurisdiction in the United States," said the chairwoman of Provincetown's board of selectmen, Mary-Jo Avellar.
Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, an opponent of same-sex marriage, has yet to comment on the conflicting laws or to set a date to train clerks to issue the licenses. "In the past the state has always been cooperative about giving us the information we needed way in advance of a law that was going into effect," said Linda Hutchenrider, the town clerk in Barnstable and president of the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association. "The fact they are holding back makes this so frustrating." Attorney general Tom Reilly's office has advised the governor's legal staff about the 1913 law, and Reilly has stated that he believes it illegal to issue licenses to residents of the 39 states that prohibit recognition of same-sex marriage, but he has not issued a formal ruling.
Provincetown officials say they receive at least 10 inquiries a day from out-of-state couples eager to get married in the resort town. They report they have reservations from 40 couples to get licenses on May 17. The town usually issues 40 marriage licenses in one year. "We may be in the same boat as other towns in Massachusetts, but Provincetown has more people requesting to come aboard," said Keith Bergman, the town manager.