Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick
signed a law today that welcomes out-of-state gay and lesbian couples
to wed in the state.
Massachusetts was the first state in
America to allow full marriage equality for gays and lesbians in
2004, but then Governor Mitt Romney (R) cited an obscure 1913 law to
prevent Massachusetts from becoming what he called “the Las Vegas
of gay marriage.”
The law, repealed today, banned
non-residents from marrying in the state if the marriage was not
recognized in their home state. The law dates back to a time when
states were trying to keep interracial couples from crossing state
borders to marry in a state that did not ban it. Thirty States at
the time forbade interracial marriage.
Massachusetts' move comes after
California opened its door to non-resident gay couples in June. Soon
afterwards, New York and Rhode Island announced they would recognize
the California marriages, even though neither state offers gay
marriage. Massachusetts lawmakers quickly took notice of the
economic benefit headed to California. Today's legislation is an
attempt to funnel some of those gay dollars their way.
Legislation repealing the law won
unanimous approval in the Senate, but ran into a bit of trouble in
the House where lawmakers worried about passing the controversial law
during an election year. Still, the bill passed by a wide margin:
118 to 35.
Opponents of the repeal cited the legal
chaos it would create as gay couples returned to their home states
where many marriages would be invalidated.
“The 1913 law is outdated and
discriminatory; repealing it is the right thing to do,” Patrick
said in a statement Tuesday after the House passed the bill.
Gay groups praised repeal of the law.
“Couples across the country have reason to celebrate today, as
Governor Patrick and state lawmakers take one giant leap towards
opening the door to marriage equality for everyone,” said Steve
Ralls, Director of Communications for Parents, Families and Friends of
Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in an email to On Top Magazine.
“All of us at PFLAG salute those who made repeal of this antiquated
statute a reality.”
Repeal of the law took effect
immediately with the governor's signature.