BOSTON (BP)–Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill into law July 31 allowing out-of-state homosexual couples to “marry,” opening the door for what conservatives say will be numerous lawsuits in state courts nationwide to have those licenses recognized.
The Democratic governor signed the bill two days after the Massachusetts House passed the bill 118-35. It previously passed the Senate on a voice vote. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats.
Although Massachusetts has recognized “gay marriage” since 2004, a law adopted in 1913 prevented nonresident couples from obtaining a license. The 95-year-old law — upheld in 2006 by the state high court, the same one that legalized “gay marriage” — prohibits a couple from getting married if the license wouldn’t be recognized in their home state.
The new law repeals that old law.
Same-sex couples now have two venues where they can “marry” — one on the West Coast (California) and one on the East Coast. California also does not have residency requirements.
“With that protective barrier removed, out-of-state same-sex couples who marry here will sue to seek recognition in their home states — creating a flood of costly lawsuits and further eroding the people’s right to define marriage democratically,” the Massachusetts Family Institute, which fought repeal of the 1913 law, said in a statement. “It also puts so-called ‘gay divorce’ in question as same-sex couples face a legal limbo when seeking to dissolve their Massachusetts marriages in their home states which have not recognized them.”
Massachusetts Family Institute President Kris Mineau said the ruling should serve as a warning to other states.
“This is a clarion call to the rest of the nation about the dangers of this radical social experiment coming out of Massachusetts and the audacity of this state to try to mandate this to the other 48 states,” he told Baptist Press. “… It substantiates the urgent need for a federal marriage amendment. The other states need to see that what is happening in Massachusetts will come upon them unless they take action.”
Mineau believes California will pass a proposed marriage amendment this fall, after which it will be “back to one state versus 49 states.”
Supporters of repealing the 1913 law argued that it was originally passed to prevent out-of-state interracial couples from marrying in Massachusetts, where interracial marriage already was legal. Mineau, though, said racism was not behind the 1913 law.
“Massachusetts legislators voted to abolish a ban on interracial marriage in 1843 — a full 70 years before the 1913 law was written,” Mineau said in a statement. “Race was not a factor — if it were, I would support this repeal.”
Ever since the Massachusetts high court handed down its landmark decision, residency has been a controversy. Although some out-of-state couples obtained licenses when “gay marriage” became legal in May 2004, then-Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, requested copies of the licenses so they could be voided. His administration also ordered the state’s clerks not to grant licenses to out-of-state couples. Eight homosexual couples and 13 municipal clerks subsequently sued, seeking to have the law overturned on the grounds that it violated the Massachusetts and U.S. constitutions. But in 2006, the Massachusetts high court upheld the law in a 6-1 decision.
The 1913 law stated in part: “No marriage shall be contracted in this commonwealth by a party residing and intending to continue to reside in another jurisdiction if such marriage would be void if contracted in such other jurisdiction, and every marriage contracted in this commonwealth in violation hereof shall be null and void.”
Messengers to the 2003 and 2004 Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings passed resolutions criticizing efforts in Massachusetts and other states to legalize “gay marriage.” The resolutions also called for citizens and public officials to take action to protect the natural definition of marriage and to prevent “gay marriage” legalization.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.