A Massachusetts judge on Wednesday upheld a 1913 state law that effectively prohibits out-of-state gay couples from marrying in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage for residents has been legal since May. The eight couples who filed the lawsuit--from Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and New York--sought a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the statute, claiming that the law is inherently discriminatory. The law prohibits marriages that would not be legal in couples' home states. In the ruling, superior court judge Carol Ball said the law is being applied equally to all nonresidents. For instance, it has been used to stop marriages of couples who didn't meet their states' age requirement for marriage. "Clerks were instructed to do so for all couples and all impediments, not just for same-sex couples," Ball wrote. Ball said Massachusetts has a rational reason to ensure that marriages it approves have validity in other states. However, she also said she sympathized with the plaintiffs and was "troubled" by the state's decision to suddenly begin enforcing the 91-year-old law.
An attorney for the couples said they are considering several avenues of appeal and believe the case ultimately will be decided by the Massachusetts supreme judicial court--the same panel that decided in November that the state should proceed with same-sex marriages. "We always knew this was really just round 1, and round 2 will be at the appellate court," said Michele Granda, with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders. Since same-sex weddings began May 17, gay rights advocates have made out-of-state couples their next legal frontier. A spokesman for Massachusetts attorney general Tom Reilly said the decision "supports the principle that...Massachusetts has a legitimate interest to respect the rights of other states to determine their own marriage laws."