Mass. judge allows out-of-state gay couple to wed
By Scott Malone
Fri Sep 29, 4:41 PM ET
BOSTON (Reuters) – A Rhode Island lesbian couple on Friday
won approval from a judge to marry in Massachusetts, paving the
way for the first legal wedding of a same-sex couple from
outside the only U.S. state where gay marriage is allowed.
The decision by Massachusetts Superior Court Justice Thomas
E. Connolly means gay couples from states with ambiguous laws
on gay marriage can marry in the state.
But the ruling reiterated that couples from states that
clearly forbid gay marriage, including New York, could not
marry in Massachusetts.
"We want our kids to grow up knowing that when something is
unfair and something is discriminatory that they should fight
and that it is possible to create change," said Wendy Becker,
45, of Providence, Rhode Island, the subject of the case.
She and her partner Mary Norton, 46, who have a 6-year-old
daughter and a 3-year-old son, said they had not yet picked a
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a 2008 Republican
presidential hopeful who has sought to prevent out-of-state
same-sex couples from marrying in Massachusetts, urged the
state’s attorney general, Thomas Reilly, to appeal.
"The ruling has the effect of exporting same-sex marriage
from Massachusetts to Rhode Island," Romney wrote to Reilly in
a letter released to the media.
Conservative Christian groups have expressed concern that
such marriages would turn the liberal New England state into
America’s gay-marriage capital.
But gay-rights advocates have campaigned to allow the
practice since Massachusetts’ highest court ruled in 2003 that
it was unconstitutional to ban gay marriage. America’s first
same-sex marriages took place in May the following year.
Since then, more than 8,000 gay couples have wed.
‘LAS VEGAS OF GAY MARRIAGE’
Friday’s case was focused on a law passed in 1913 that bars
out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their
own states fail to recognize the union.
Massachusetts lawmakers are due to vote in November —
after the state and national elections — on whether to amend
the constitution to ban gay marriage.
Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family
Institute, which opposes same-sex marriage, said the ruling
would muddy the waters for states.
"This creates a new level of legal chaos for regulators and
lawmakers in … any state that does not expressly forbid
same-sex marriage," Mineau said. "It also furthers the notion
of Massachusetts becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage."
What remains to be seen, one expert said, is what the
ruling will mean in practice for Rhode Islanders.
"What happens when they go back to Rhode Island? Will they
be treated as if they’re married? That’s sort of the
million-dollar question," said Lee Badgett, research director
for the Williams Center for Sexual Orientation Law and Public
Policy at UCLA Law School.
Becker and Norton said they had not yet told their daughter
the news, but suspected she would be pleased.
"For the last two and a half years she has been picking out
wedding dresses for herself," Becker said.