Friday, March 31, 2006

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court yesterday upheld a 1913 state law that blocks out-of-state homosexual couples from legally “marrying” there.

“[T]he laws of this Commonwealth have not endowed nonresidents with an unfettered right to marry,” Justice Francis X. Spina wrote for the 6-1 majority.

The high court’s ruling continues current policy, which says out-of-state couples cannot marry in Massachusetts unless their marriage is permissible in their home state.

Because Massachusetts is the only U.S. state to allow same-sex “marriage,” the 1913 law effectively bans nonresident homosexual couples from “marrying” there.

However, the high court suggested that New York and Rhode Island might allow same-sex “marriage,” and directed plaintiffs from those two states to seek lower court hearings to determine whether same-sex “marriage” is prohibited there.

Most of the eight out-of-state homosexual plaintiff couples live in states where same-sex”marriage” is clearly prohibited, the court noted in its ruling.

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, praised yesterday’s ruling, saying: “We don’t want Massachusetts to become the Las Vegas of same-sex marriage.

“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 us on,” Mr. Romney said.

Plaintiff Mark Pearsall of Connecticut called the ruling “illogical,” and his lawyers at the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders said it was “disappointing.”

The decision “is a speed bump on the long road to fairness,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, which promotes homosexual rights.

Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex “marriage” with the 2003 Goodridge decision. When the first homosexual ceremonies were held in May 2004, Massachusetts officials invoked the 1913 law to block applications of out-of-state homosexual couples.

In June 2004, eight out-of-state homosexual couples and a group of town clerks filed lawsuits to overturn the 1913 law.

But yesterday, the court ruled that the law, which was written to prevent out-of-state couples from evading local marriage laws, was constitutional.

It also agreed that application of the 1913 law “has inevitably fallen disproportionately on nonresident same-sex couples.”

However, the Goodridge decision does not mean that “nonresident same-sex couples, who have no intention of living in Massachusetts, have an identical right to secure a marriage license that they could not otherwise obtain in their home states,” the court said.

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,” it added.

Justice Roderick L. Ireland, the sole dissenter, said his colleagues failed to keep marriage gender-neutral. Yesterday’s decision helps “reconstruct the edifice of discrimination we dismantled in Goodridge,” he warned.

To date, 44 states have laws or amendments that uphold traditional marriage and ban same-sex “marriage,” said the Massachusetts Family Institute, which supports traditional marriage.

This year, voters in at least seven states — Alabama, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin — will have constitutional marriage amendments on their ballots.

Meanwhile, lawsuits seeking same-sex “marriage” rights are under way in California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Washington.

The Washington Supreme Court decision is expected at any time. Washington does not have restrictive marriage laws, and if that court rules in favor of same-sex “marriage,” homosexual couples from across the nation can readily marry there.

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