Sunday, April 25, 2004

Gov. Romney won't let gay outsiders wed in Massachusetts.

It seems the Bay State has a statute that dates back to 1913 prohibiting out-of-state couples from marrying if their marriage would be void in their home state (see the report in this morning's New York Times). Governor Mitt Romney is directing revisions to local marriage forms so that home states can be identified. Meantime, he plans to write to every governor in the country and ask for assurances that same-sex marriage is permitted in their states. As the Times noted, however:
It seems unlikely that any state would be able to say that at the moment. Thirty-nine states have passed so-called defense-of-marriage acts, which stipulate that marriage is between a man and a woman. Three other states — Maryland, New Hampshire and Wyoming — have laws precluding same-sex marriage. And seven states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, make no specific reference to same-sex couples in their laws.
By my count, that's 49 states that will not recognize same-sex marriage. (Where's D.C. in all this?)

Described by various news reports as "obscure" and "little-known," the 1913 law is easily found in Chapter 207 ("Marriage") of the Domestic Relations Law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The first part of Chapter 207 is entitled "Certain Marriages Prohibited," and Section 11 (of 14 sections) lays it out for all to see:
Section 11. 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.
I don't know of many other states with a similar provision, probably because most states are happy to marry 'most anyone who meets the legal requirements of their own state and leave it to the happy couples' home states to figure out whether they will recognize the union or not (depending on whether the marriage violates the public policy of the state). Gov. Romney, on the other hand, is not concerned with enforcing other states' rules about who can marry whom. His worry is that Massachusetts will "become the Las Vegas of same-sex marriage." Considering that all states are perfectly capable of protecting their own interests in traditional marriage without the help of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, one wonders whether this is really about the proliferation of tacky little white marriage chapels or plain, old-fashioned discrimination.
posted by tommayo, 8:12 AM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter