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The Nose

No Love for Same-Sex Love

Posted 2/11/2004

Attention same-sex couples: If you're planning on getting married in Massachusetts in the near future, don't trip on the legal issues on your way down the aisle. When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled last week that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry just like hetero couples, gays and lesbians across the country popped champagne corks and the question. The Nose imagines that there were big smiles on the faces of those who run Massachusetts' wedding and tourist industries as well, as they likely imagined the state would become the nation's gay-marriage mecca when the court's ruling is put into effect on May 17. The Nose hates to be the one to say it, but don't start packing your wedding gear just yet. A 90-year-old state law makes it impossible for many same-sex couples not legally residing in Massachusetts to be married there.

In 1913 the Massachusetts legislature passed a law that states, "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 his commonwealth in violation hereof shall be null and void." In other words, if you can't legally tie the knot in your state, you can't do it in Massachusetts either.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice John Greaney referenced the little-known law when writing his concurrent opinion on the ruling: "Legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts [being] used by persons in other States as a tool to obtain recognition of a marriage in their State that is otherwise unlawful, is precluded" by the 1913 statute.

So, same-sex couples from the Free State, for one, won't be able to get their relationships legalized by going to Massachusetts. The Maryland Code states that "only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this State." And to make doubly sure the law is clear on that, Del. Charles Boutin (R-Harford and Cecil Counties) has sponsored a bill asking for an amendment to the Maryland Constitution saying exactly the same thing.

Since 38 other states have restrictive Defense of Marriage Act laws in place, most same-sex couples outside Massachusetts will still have to resign themselves to saying "I would" instead of "I do."

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