Ninety-Year-Old Law May Prevent Gay Marriages

Conservatives are hopeful that the ruling would thwart clerks within MA from sanctioning marriage licenses
( [email protected] ) Mar 09, 2004 10:24 AM EST

Massachusetts – Opponents and advocates to legalizing same-sex “marriage” found that a law written in 1913 might prohibit Massachusetts from wedding homosexuals from outside their state, March 9, 2004. Now, ten weeks before gay "marriage" is legalized in Massachusetts, all await the ruling on the 90 year-old statute that bars the issuance of marriage licenses “if such marriage would be void” in the couples’ home state.

Conservatives are hopeful that the ruling would object to municipal clerks within Massachusetts from sanctioning “marriage” licenses to gays from outside the state, since no state beside Massachusetts permits gay “marriage.”

"We're not being judgmental about gay marriage," says Stephen Roche, a lawyer representing the town clerks. "We just want to know how to handle this very different wrinkle in the laws of Massachusetts."

Should the ruling pull through, it would mark a great victory for pro-family groups who fear that once Massachusetts legalizes gay “marriage,” all other states would be forced to recognize such unions under the full faith and credit clause in the U.S. Constitution

Linda Hutchenrider, president of the Massachusetts Town Clerks' Association, said clerks are not sure what to do.

"Right now, we don't ask heterosexual couples if they are a resident of Massachusetts or of any other state," says Hutchenrider, town clerk for Barnstable. "We don't want to discriminate."

Even the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the group that sued to legalize gay marriage in Massachusetts, encouraged homosexuals across the nation to “not commit to any Massachusetts marriage plans.”

In addition, the Supreme Court failed to clear up another issue involving homosexual “marriages”: marriage license forms ask for information on the “bride” and “groom” but in a gay marriage, that form is not applicable. This issue was brought up in California when San Francisco began illegally issuing “marriage” licenses to homosexuals by the thousands. Ultimately, at the state level, the SF “marriage” licenses were not recognized because they did not fit the forms.

Another issue surrounds the state requirements for medical testing. In Massachusetts, the bride must be tested for rubella, or German measles, which can cause birth defects during pregnancies. Such tests certainly cannot be applied to two men.

When asked to clarify questions on these laws, the State officials refused. Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Riley's office said it would not answer such questions because it can answer only legal questions posed by the executive branch and the Legislature.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Mitt Romney, an opponent of same-sex marriage, also said his office is reviewing the law. She said no answer would be given, until after the legislative session this week, where the representatives will consider passing the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Should the amendment be passed, it would go to the voters for ratification in 2006, leaving a yearlong gap in confirming the result.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November that it was unconstitutional to exclude same-sex couples from marriage. The court ordered clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to the couples May 17.