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Massachusetts
high court limits same-sex marriage for out-of-state
couples

Massachusetts
high court limits same-sex marriage for out-of-state
couples

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Massachusetts's highest court ruled Thursday that same-sex couples from states with explicit bans on same-sex marriage cannot legally marry in the Bay State.

Massachusetts's highest court ruled Thursday that same-sex couples who live in states with explicit bans on same-sex marriage cannot come to the Bay State and ask for a marriage license, The New York Times reports. However, couples who come from states that are ambiguous on the matter may still have a claim to those licenses.

In an opinion written by Justice Francis X. Spina, the court upheld a 1913 statute that says no out-of-state resident can get married in Massachusetts if the marriage would be void in the person's home state, unless the person intends to live in Massachusetts. Five justices concurred, at least in part, with Justice Spina's opinion; one justice dissented.

"The laws of this commonwealth have not endowed nonresidents with an unfettered right to marry," Justice Spina wrote for the majority. "To the contrary, the rights of nonresidents to marry in Massachusetts have been specifically restricted." Spina added, "I recognize that the brunt" of the law's impact "has inevitably fallen disproportionately on nonresident same-sex couples rather than on nonresident opposite-sex couples" because no other state currently allows same-sex marriage.

The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by eight out-of-state couples and 12 cities and towns, claiming the 1913 statute was discriminatory and had been invalidated by the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. In its decision the court denied the claims of all but the couples from New York and Rhode Island, because laws in those states have not specifically outlawed same-sex marriage. The high court sent those cases back to the superior court judge who had originally denied them, asking the judge to determine whether same-sex marriage is allowed in those states.

Only one justice, Roderick L. Ireland, dissented, writing that "the commonwealth's resurrection of a moribund statute to deny nonresident same-sex couples access to marriage is not only troubling" but "also is fundamentally unfair."

Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall concurred with much of Justice Spina's opinion but recommended that same-sex couples "who reside in states where they are not expressly prohibited from marrying by statute, constitutional amendment, or controlling appellate court decision be permitted, at the very least, to present evidence to rebut the commonwealth's claim that their home state would prohibit their marriage." (The Advocate)

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