Massachusetts's attorney general said a 91-year-old state law prevents the state from issuing marriage licenses to couples whose marriage would be illegal in their home state, an interpretation that could block gay couples from 39 states from tying the knot there. Atty. Gen. Thomas F. Reilly said Tuesday that when gay matrimony becomes legal in Massachusetts, it will apply only to Massachusetts residents and couples who live in states where no current law expressly defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Reilly based his decision on a 1913 state law that prevents out-of-staters from getting married in Massachusetts if they are ineligible for marriage in the state where they reside. Thirty-nine states have so-called defense of marriage laws that define marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman. "In those states...where same-sex marriage is not lawful, [same-sex couples] are not entitled and cannot be lawfully married here," Reilly said. "This [court] opinion is rather limited, in terms of Massachusetts residents who are entitled to these rights."
Currently, Massachusetts municipal clerks require couples seeking a marriage license to sign affidavits that their impending nuptials would be legal in their home jurisdiction. Gov. Mitt Romney's communications director, Eric Fehrnstrom, said that same-sex couples also will be required to sign such affidavits after May 17, the date the supreme judicial court set for the issuance of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. However, municipal clerks and justices of the peace told The Boston Globe on Tuesday that they still hope to receive some form of official opinion on the issue before May 17.