Massachusetts Braces for Next Gay 'Marriage' Battle

Jun 16, 2007 05:57 AM EDT

BOSTON (AP) – Gay “marriage” advocates say they have one more fight in Massachusetts: Repealing a 1913 law that bars same-sex couples in most other states from coming here to get “married.”

Some say the law — which says couples cannot be married here unless their unions would be legal in their home states — has its roots in the effort to block interracial marriage, and plan soon to strategize for its repeal.

Opponents of gay marriage, including the former governor and now Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have said repealing the law would make Massachusetts the "Las Vegas of gay marriage."

"This radical social experiment will be exported to the other 49 states," Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, said Friday.

A day earlier, lawmakers killed an effort to let voters decide on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The defeat for gay marriage opponents comes after more than three years of debate.

Now attention turns to the state's 1913 law, which, if repealed, would mean gay couples from other states could legally marry in Massachusetts.

The possible impact of the marriages in other states is unknown. Most states prohibit gay marriage, but a Massachusetts certificate could provide the foundation for legal challenges. A court challenge was the basis of Massachusetts legalizing same-sex marriage, after gay couples were denied marriage licenses.

Opponents of the 1913 law say it was originally approved as part of a deal with states that barred interracial marriages and didn't want couples fleeing to Massachusetts to marry. Others say there's little evidence to support that claim.

After gay marriage became legal in May 2004, hundreds of couples from other states came to Massachusetts to wed. But then-Gov. Romney directed municipal clerks not to give licenses to out-of-state couples, citing the 1913 law.

So far, only Rhode Island allows its gay couples to wed in Massachusetts. More than 170 marriages of gay couples from New York who wed in Massachusetts before July 2006 have also been deemed valid, because New York had not explicitly banned same-sex marriages until then.

The courts might not be as helpful to those who want to strike down the 1913 law.

The Supreme Judicial Court, which legalized gay marriage, upheld the 1913 law last year, ruling that 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."

Mineau seconded that sentiment Friday.

"It will open the floodgates for Massachusetts to become the Mecca for same-sex marriage," he said. "Their goal is to strike down the marriage restrictions in every state. Their launching pad will be Massachusetts."

Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, said "no one is rushing" to push for the repeal but she's confident it will happen.

"In the short term, we want everyone to rest, breathe and appreciate the incredible victory that took place," she said.

Marc Solomon, campaign director of MassEquality, said he expects to set up meetings with legislative leaders and the governor sometime soon to discuss moving a bill to repeal the law.

The state's top three political leaders — Gov. Deval Patrick, House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray — are all strong supporters of gay marriage who indicted they would support repeal of the law.

David Guarino, a spokesman for DiMasi said Friday: "As a strong supporter of gay marriage rights, the Speaker believes the so-called 1913 law is outdated and unfair. He believes it should be repealed."

Senate president believes it is "an antiquated law" and supports its repeal, said Murray spokeswoman Samantha Dallaire. The Senate voted to repeal the law in 2004, but it didn't get further, she said.

Patrick's office declined to comment Friday, but the governor in April said: "I know that the 1913 law has sort of smelly origins. I think it's outdated. If it passes the Legislature and comes to my desk, I'll sign it."

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.