Mass. law preventing out-of-state couples from marrying challenged

BY admin

April 23 2004 11:00 PM ET

The battle over gay marriage in Massachusetts continued Friday, as state lawmakers attempt to undo a 1913 law that forbids out-of-state couples to marry in Massachusetts if their union would be considered illegal in their home state, according to The Boston Globe. Rep. Robert P. Spellane is set to file the bill that would reverse the contentious law before legalized gay marriages begin on May 17.

Gov. Mitt Romney has informed his administration to instruct city and town clerks to uphold "the law as it exists on May 17," the newspaper reported, and Thursday he referenced the out-of-state question at a meeting of the Governor's Council.

"It's going to be a lot of work for the clerks," said Romney, whose legal staff is compiling a catalog of guidelines for the clerks to follow, including a list of court rulings on gay marriage by state. He told the newspaper that clerks will instruct couples to "read it and tell us if you're eligible under your state's law." The proposed bill would eliminate this practice by striking two sections from the state's marriage statute that outline how to deal with out-of-staters.

In the past, clerks have allowed the couples to determine whether their marriage would be legal in their home state and have requested the couples to sign sworn affidavits as verification.

Spellane, a Democrat, hopes to sidestep this tedious process, saying the 1913 law violates the state supreme court's November ruling that it was unconstitutional to bar same-sex couples from marriage.

"There's no doubt it's a discriminatory law," he told the Globe. "People are using it to their advantage. [But] there is no confusion about it in relation to the ruling in November, and it's incumbent on us to remove it." House speaker Thomas M. Finneran, who controls the fate of most legislation in the chamber, has yet to review the bill, the newspaper reported. A spokesman for Finneran declined comment Thursday.

Justice John M. Greaney, one of the four supreme court justices who formed the majority in the gay marriage ruling, suggested in a footnote that out-of-staters will not be able to get married in Massachusetts. "The argument, made by some in the case, that legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts will be used by persons in other states as a tool to obtain recognition of a marriage in their state that is otherwise unlawful is precluded," he wrote.

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