Mass. attorney general defends law against marriages for out-of-state couples
July 12 2004 11:00 PM ET
States should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to permit same-sex marriages and should not be forced to accept unions of gay and lesbian couples who wed in Massachusetts, according to the state's attorney general, Thomas Reilly. On Tuesday afternoon in Suffolk superior court, Reilly will square off against gay-marriage supporters over a 1913 law that prohibits marriages that would be unlawful in a couple's home state. Eight out-of-state same-sex couples who wed in Massachusetts argue that the law perpetuates the same discrimination that was ruled unconstitutional by the state high court.
Reilly argues in a legal brief filed Monday that the couples' reliance on the high court decision in the case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health ignores the ruling's specific references to the autonomy of other states. "Language used throughout the Goodridge majority decision recognizes that other states are entitled to reach their own conclusions about same-sex marriage and that nothing in Goodridge is intended to force the issue in, or on, other states," Reilly writes. Reilly argues that the eight couples--two from Connecticut, two from Rhode Island, and one each from New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and New York--do not have standing to challenge the 1913 law, which states that no nonresident couples can marry in this state if the marriage would be considered "null and void" in their home state. The brief quotes a part of the majority decision stating that the judges "would not presume to dictate how another state should respond to today's decision.... Each State is free to address difficult issues of individual liberty in the manner its own Constitution suggests."
Michele Granda, attorney for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said she found it ironic that the state of Massachusetts is suddenly concerned about the rights of the state's gay couples "given that the commonwealth has vigorously fought against extending these rights at every turn." She added, "The fear of retaliation from other states can't be stopped by catering to that discrimination." Republican governor Mitt Romney, who adamantly opposes same-sex marriage, has said that gay couples from other states cannot marry in Massachusetts because of the 1913 law. GLAD sued on behalf of the eight out-of-state couples in mid June, arguing that the Goodridge decision and an advisory opinion issued by the court in February, which upheld the November decision in favor of same-sex marriage, "control this case."