Lawyers for the city of Boston are exploring whether it is legally possible to ignore a directive from Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to review residency documents before granting marriage licenses to gay couples.
Romney, a Republican who opposes gay marriage, wants Massachusetts cities and towns to enforce a 1913 law that says out-of-state couples cannot be married in Massachusetts if their marriages would not be recognized in their home state. The move is meant to head off a flood of out-of-state people applying for marriage licenses in Massachusetts when gay marriage becomes legal in the state on May 17. No other states recognize same-sex marriage.
But Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino, a Democrat and supporter of gay marriage, is considering ignoring the directive if at all legally possible. "There is a good chance I might defy the governor, but we're still looking at our options," Menino told The Boston Globe on Sunday. "It's about civil rights. It's about uniting people. It's about showing that we don't discriminate in the city of Boston."
Because the city has never asked straight couples for proof of residency, asking gay couples for it may amount to discrimination and open the city to lawsuits, Menino said. However, the Romney administration has already rewritten marriage license forms to include a requirement that cities and towns ask for proof of residency. Boston officials have plans to make gay marriage as easy as possible in the city.
About 20 city workers wearing "Welcome" badges will be available at Boston City Hall on the morning of May 17 to answer questions. The city is also printing brochures with instructions on how to obtain a marriage license, how to get the three-day waiting period for a marriage license waived, how to find a justice of the peace to perform a wedding, and directions to suburban communities if Boston gets too backed up. "The decision has been made," Menino said. "Why continue to do end runs? It's the law. Let's do it right. Let's do it with respect."
City registrar Judy McCarthy, whose office issues marriage licenses, said she will follow the mayor's instructions. City clerk Rosaria Salerno, who regularly performs marriages at City Hall, said she will marry all couples who come to her office with a marriage license issued by a Massachusetts city or town. Her job does not include checking residency, she said. "If they come up here with a valid license, I will perform the ceremony," she said. "They will absolutely be taken care of."