Next Battle Ready for Mass. Gay Marriage

The Associated Press
Friday, June 15, 2007; 3:28 PM

BOSTON -- Fresh off the success of defending gay marriage from its latest attack, 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 _ after more than three years of debate _ makes the successful mounting of a future challenge even more unlikely.

Now attention turns to the state's 1913 law, which, if repealed, would mean gay couples from other states could legally marry in Massachusetts.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

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