- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Massachusetts state Senate yesterday voted overwhelmingly to repeal the 1913 law that Gov. Mitt Romney says forbids out-of-state homosexual couples from “marrying” in Massachusetts.

The repeal was approved 28-3 as part of the Senate version of the state budget. To take effect, however, the repeal must pass the more conservative House and then both chambers would have to override the veto that Mr. Romney has promised.

A Romney spokesman said the Senate vote proves “what has been obvious to us all along.”

“This law is not Governor Romney’s invention,” Eric Fehrnstrom said. “This is the law of the land, and the governor cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce.”

On Monday, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex “marriage,” based on the state Supreme Judicial Court’s 2003 Goodridge decision, which struck down the state’s marriage requirement of a man and a woman as discrimination.

As lawyers scoured Massachusetts’ marriage laws in light of Goodridge, questions soon arose about a 1913 residency law, which says: “No marriage shall be contracted in this commonwealth by a party residing and intending to continue to reside in another jurisdiction if such marriage would be void if contracted in such other jurisdiction, and every marriage contracted in this commonwealth in violation hereof shall be null and void.”

Mr. Romney and Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly both say the law forbids out-of-state homosexuals from getting a marriage license in Massachusetts because no other state recognizes same-sex “marriage.”

Mr. Romney also has said that licenses issued to out-of-state homosexual couples will be annulled and that legal action might be taken against officials who issued them.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Mr. Romney confirmed that four Massachusetts towns have been asked to send their marriage documents for same-sex couples to the governor’s office immediately.

The governor’s office will review the forms and decide what to do concerning their registration, Shawn Feddeman said.

“At this point, we are collecting the information, and no decisions have been made on where to go from here,” she said.

Worcester, Provincetown, Springfield and Somerville town officials say they are “marrying” out-of-state couples if the couples sign documents saying they know of no reason that they can’t “marry” at home.

Newspaper stories from this week’s “marriage” celebrations include quotes from jubilant same-sex couples from Alabama, New Mexico and numerous other states.

Officials in the four towns and cities said they were cooperating with Mr. Romney’s request.

“This is the first step toward something, that’s for sure,” said Provincetown Town Manager Keith Bergman, who estimated that almost one-third of the 152 licenses filed in his town Monday were for out-of-state couples.

Nearly 90 percent of the homosexual couples getting “marriage” licenses were residents of Massachusetts, said the Boston Globe, which surveyed 752 same-sex couples in 11 cities and towns.

In April, Mr. Romney sent letters to leaders of the other 49 states, asking them to clarify their position on same-sex “marriage.” Of the 12 states that have responded, “not one … indicated to us that gay marriage is legal in their state,” Ms. Feddeman said.

The 12 states that responded to Mr. Romney are Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont.

According to the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, Maryland law prohibits recognition of same-sex “marriage” and the state is not obligated under federal “full faith and credit” rules to recognize out-of-state same-sex “marriages.”

In New York, a spokesman for Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said yesterday that although same-sex “marriage” is not legal in that state, the issue remains “an open question” for courts to determine.

Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal, said out-of-state same-sex couples who “marry” in Massachusetts will fight to have their “marriages” recognized nationally.

“It’s America in 2004. I think legal action is guaranteed,” he said.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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