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judge approves marriage there for Rhode Island gays

Massachusetts
judge approves marriage there for Rhode Island gays

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A lesbian couple from Rhode Island has the right to marry in Massachusetts because laws in their home state do not expressly prohibit same-sex marriage, a judge in Boston ruled Friday.

A lesbian couple from Rhode Island has the right to marry in Massachusetts because laws in their home state do not expressly prohibit same-sex marriage, a judge in Boston ruled Friday. Wendy Becker and Mary Norton of Providence, R.I., argued that a 1913 law that forbids out-of-state residents from marrying in Massachusetts if their marriage would not be permitted in their home state did not apply to them because Rhode Island does not specifically ban same-sex marriage. Superior court judge Thomas Connolly agreed. ''No evidence was introduced before this court of a constitutional amendment, statute, or controlling appellate decision from Rhode Island that explicitly deems void or otherwise expressly forbids same-sex marriage,'' he ruled. Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, which represented the couples, hailed the decision ''as another step toward marriage equality.'' Massachusetts attorney general Thomas Reilly said he would not appeal Connolly's ruling. Reilly's office had argued that the Rhode Island laws' use of gender-specific terms--including both ''bride'' and ''groom''--made it clear that the laws' intent was to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. But in a statement after Connolly's ruling was issued, Reilly said appealing the decision would be a waste of time and money, adding, ''This case has always been about respecting the laws of other states.'' After Massachusetts became the first state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, couples from many other states began lining up to get marriage licenses there. But Gov. Mitt Romney directed municipal clerks not to give licenses to out-of-state couples, citing the 1913 law. Eight couples from six nearby states challenged the law. In March the Massachusetts supreme judicial court ruled that Massachusetts could use the 1913 law to bar gay couples from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont from marrying there. But the court said the laws were unclear in New York and Rhode Island and sent that part of the case back to a lower court for clarification. In July, New York State's highest court said that its state law limits marriage to male-female couples. Connolly cited the New York court's decision in his ruling, saying that state expressly prohibits same-sex marriage. That left only the Rhode Island couples free to marry in Massachusetts. (Denise Lavoie, AP)

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