Three of the four Massachusetts communities that have been marrying same-sex couples from outside the state have stopped issuing licenses to nonresidents after receiving a warning from the state attorney general. Worcester, Somerville, and Springfield stopped issuing licenses to nonresident gay couples on Monday, one week after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. Officials of the fourth community, Provincetown, planned to meet on Tuesday night to discuss whether to comply with the warning from Atty. Gen. Thomas Reilly. Before gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts on May 17, Gov. Mitt Romney had warned city and town clerks that a 1913 law barred them from issuing licenses to gay couples from other states. But clerks in Somerville, Provincetown, Worcester, and Springfield defied the Republican governor by giving licenses to all those who attested that they knew of no legal impediment to their union. The 1913 law is a segregation-era statute intended to block interracial marriages. It forbids couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their union would not be recognized in their home state.
On Friday the Democratic attorney general sent letters to all four clerks, saying he agreed with the governor's interpretation of the law and planned to enforce it. He did not say what legal action he would take against clerks who continued to defy the state, but legal experts say he could seek a court injunction ordering them to stop. Somerville mayor Joseph Curtatone said Monday that he was asking Reilly for clarification on how to proceed. "As matter of law and policy, I believe the Somerville city clerk has acted correctly in issuing these licenses," Curtatone wrote in his letter to Reilly. A city lawyer for Worcester prepared a legal brief arguing that clerk David Rushford has been within the law by granting licenses to out-of-staters.