highest court, which in 2003 legalized same-sex marriage,
has put some out-of-state couples who married there in legal
limbo by upholding a 1913 state law that bars
nonresidents from marrying in Massachusetts if
their union would not be permitted in their home state.
But Christopher McCary and John Sullivan, one of
the first gay couples married in Massachusetts, said
they still consider themselves married, even if
Thursday's ruling means they're just two guys living in the
same house in Alabama, which does not recognize their
union. "It really doesn't change anything," said
McCary, an attorney in Anniston, Ala. "We're like
everybody else. He has two jobs, I have one, and we both
work all the time."
The ruling left more uncertainty for Amy
Zimmerman and Tanya Wexler, who are from New York. The
court sent their case and the case of two couples from
Rhode Island back to a lower court, saying it was unclear
whether their home states prohibit same-sex marriage.
"We do consider ourselves still married," Zimmerman,
33. "There is a limbo element to it."
Eight gay couples from surrounding states had
challenged the law in a case watched closely across
the country. Five of those eight couples actually
received marriage licenses in Massachusetts before the
governor ordered the 1913 law be enforced.
In Thursday's ruling Justice Francis Spina wrote
that Massachusetts "has a significant interest in not
meddling in matters in which another state, the one
where a couple actually resides, has a paramount
interest." The state "can reasonably believe that
nonresident same-sex couples primarily are coming to
this commonwealth to marry because they want to evade
the marriage laws of their home states, and that
Massachusetts should not be encouraging such evasion," the
Michele Granda, an attorney for the couples,
said couples from states where same-sex marriage isn't
explicitly prohibited can now argue their states
wouldn't prohibit their marriages in Massachusetts. "The
court identified two states where [same-sex] marriage
is an option, but there may be more," she said.
New York's top officials have said same-sex
marriage is illegal there, although that
interpretation of state law is being challenged. The New
York court of appeals is scheduled to hear arguments on the
case on May 31. The law in Rhode Island is silent on
whether such unions are permissible.
Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney applauded
Thursday's ruling. "We don't want Massachusetts to
become the Las Vegas of same-sex marriage," Romney
said. "It's important that other states have the right
to make their own determination of marriage and not follow
the wrong course that our supreme judicial court put
In oral arguments before the high court in
October, a lawyer for the couples argued that the 1913
law had been unused for decades, until it was "dusted
off" by Romney in an attempt to discriminate against
same-sex couples. He ordered city and town clerks to enforce
that law after the first same-sex marriages were
performed in Massachusetts in May 2004.
Attorneys for the state argued that
Massachusetts risked a backlash if it ignored the laws
of other states by letting same-sex couples marry in the
state when their own states prohibited such unions.
Massachusetts does not track how many
out-of-state couples have been given licenses.
According to the Registry of Vital Records and
Statistics, 7,341 gay couples tied the knot in Massachusetts
between May 2004 and December 2005.
The legality of the marriages of out-of-state
couples who did get Massachusetts licenses would have
to be determined in their home states on a
case-by-case basis, according to Atty. Gen. Tom Reilly,
who said he agreed with the court's decision. "What
the court did today is really to recognize that it's
up to each state to decide what their laws will be,"
Kris Mineau of the Massachusetts Family
Institute, which opposes same-sex marriage, said the
ruling shows the need for a federal marriage amendment
that would specifically ban same-sex marriage nationwide.
Massachusetts opponents of same-sex marriage are
working to put a question on the state's November 2008
ballot that would define marriage strictly as the
union of a man and a woman.
In the meantime, McCary said he and Sullivan are
considering moving to Massachusetts from Alabama, a
change they were contemplating even before their
marriage and the supreme judicial court ruling. "We have
been looking for real estate in Massachusetts," he
said. "I wonder if we moved there, would our marriage
be legal." (AP)