- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

BOSTON (AP) — With Massachusetts’ first homosexual “marriages” drawing near, town clerks are seeking guidance from the state about details such as blood tests, the “bride-groom” wording of the “marriage” license and the state’s residency requirements.

Town clerks from across the state sent a letter to the governor, the attorney general and the public-health commissioner last week, asking for clarification on several points before same-sex “weddings” begin taking place as early as May 17 with the blessing of Massachusetts’ highest court.

“We want to address these couples and all couples in the same professional manner as we have always done,” said Barnstable Town Clerk Linda Hutchenrider, president of the Massachusetts Town Clerk Association. “But unless some questions are answered, we’re going to be in a very confused state as of the 17th.”

Of central concern to the town clerks is a state law that bans “marriage” by an out-of-state couple if the “marriage” would be illegal in the jurisdiction where they live, which in the case of homosexual “marriage” would be just about everywhere.

The residency requirement has not been tested for decades because of the basic uniformity of marriage laws from state to state.

The letter also questions whether a justice of the peace can object to a wedding because of his or her religious beliefs and “whether such a rejection would place them at risk of personal liability for discrimination.”

Miss Hutchenrider said a few justices have raised this concern.

Town clerks long have questioned the continued necessity of blood tests and suggested that now might be an opportune time to revisit this requirement. Currently, all couples must be tested for syphilis, offered screening for rubella and counseled on HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS testing is not required for homosexual couples who want to “marry,” but they must receive educational information on the disease.

The clerks also suggested that the “bride and groom” designation on the state’s “marriage” licenses should be changed to read “partner and partner” or “spouse and spouse.”

The attorney general’s office said it referred the letter to the Public Health Department, which oversees the issuance of marriage licenses.

“We did indicate to town clerks that at the appropriate time we would be forthcoming with information,” said department spokeswoman Roseanne Pawelec. “We’re not at that juncture.”

Unlike “marriages” that have taken place in San Francisco and New Paltz, N.Y., which were conducted in defiance of state law, Massachusetts homosexual “marriages” have the approval of the state’s highest court, which ruled 4-3 in November that homosexual couples have a constitutional right to “marry.”

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