- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2008

From combined dispatches

BOSTON | The Massachusetts Senate voted Tuesday to repeal a 1913 law used to bar out-of-state gay couples from marrying in the state, a law that critics say was originally aimed at interracial marriages.

The law prohibits couples from obtaining marriage licenses if they can’t legally wed in their home states.

The House is expected to vote on the repeal measure later this week. The Senate action came on a voice vote.

The repeal effort has the support of the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, and of Gov. Deval Patrick, whose 18-year-old daughter announced publicly last month she is a lesbian.

A new analysis by the state Office of Housing and Economic Development determined repealing the law would draw thousands of couples to Massachusetts, boosting the economy by $111 million, creating 330 jobs and generating $5 million in taxes and fees over three years.

The study assumes New York would provide the largest number of gay couples - more than 21,000 - with New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine bringing the total to more than 30,000 couples in the first three years after the ban was lifted.

Critics fear repealing the law would open the gay marriage floodgates.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican who invoked the nearly forgotten law after gay marriage went into effect in 2004, once warned that repealing the law would make Massachusetts the “Las Vegas of gay marriage.”

One factor driving the repeal effort in Massachusetts is California’s embrace of same-sex marriage - coupled with the election of Mr. Patrick, a pro-gay-marriage Democrat.

Marc Solomon, campaign director for MassEquality, said he is confident the repeal bill will reach Mr. Patrick’s desk before the end of the formal session July 31.

“There’s strong support in the Legislature for eliminating this last vestige of state discrimination in the marriage laws against same-sex couples,” Mr. Solomon said.

Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, which opposes same-sex marriage, said the law is in sync with federal constitutional protections guaranteeing individual states the right to define marriage.

“It is an issue of one state honoring the rights of other states,” he said, but conceded the California ruling was a setback. “The green light has been given to try to export this radical social experiment from coast to coast.”

The genesis of the law remains murky.

It was approved at a time when many states barred interracial marriages, though supporters say there’s no evidence it was racially motivated in Massachusetts, which began allowing interracial marriages in 1843.

The law was rarely enforced until Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2003 that the state could no longer stop gay couples from marrying.

Mr. Romney, then eyeing a run for president, ordered city and town clerks to enforce the statute, though some town clerks balked.

Eight gay couples from surrounding states challenged the law in court and in 2006 the same court that allowed gay marriage refused to toss out the 1913 law.

Until the California ruling, gay marriage remained an option available almost exclusively to same-sex couples living in Massachusetts. About 11,000 same-sex couples have wed.

Not all out-of-state couples have been barred from marrying in Massachusetts.

In 2006, a Massachusetts judge ruled there was nothing in Rhode Island law banning same-sex marriage, even though the Rhode Island Legislature hasn’t legalized gay marriage.

Despite the introduction of gay marriage in Massachusetts and California, most other states have statutes or constitutional amendments specifying that marriage involves a man and a woman, thus denying recognition to same-sex unions.

The federal government also doesn’t recognize such unions.

One exception is New York, where Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat, has stipulated that state law requires recognition of legal marriages performed elsewhere, including same-sex unions.

If Massachusetts lifts its ban and couples from other states rush to marry there, it’s not clear what weight those marriage certificates would carry once they return home.

Some gay activists caution couples from immediately filing lawsuits challenging their home state’s bans on gay marriage. Activists fear the rush could set court precedents against gay marriage that could take years to undo.

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