The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overturned a legal challenge to the law brought by same-sex couples from other states wishing to obtain marriages in Massachusetts last Thursday, according to the Washington Post. This decision elicited different opinions from the AU community.
The Court decided to uphold a 1913 law that prohibits out-of-state couples from marrying in the state, according to The Post.
This case was significant because it was the first decision to place a legal limit on the right of same-sex couples to marry after gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts in 2003.
The law specifically prohibits the marriage of couples from states where their marriages would not be recognized; it says nothing about same-sex couples directly.
Shortly after the 2003 ruling, Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., who is considering running for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination and has been vocal about his opposition to gay marriage, ordered officials to enforce the 1913 law, according to The Post.
More than 6,000 gay couples have married in Massachusetts since the 2003 ruling, The Post reported.
This ruling leaves the Massachusetts marriages of same-sex couples from states that lack a direct ban on gay marriage in ambiguity. There is also uncertainty as to what will happen to couples from states with bans who managed to marry in Massachusetts before legal issues arose.
Nick Sakurai, program coordinator of the GLBTA Center, said the state resurrected a law that was passed to prohibit out-of-state interracial couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their home states would not permit their “intermarrying.” Since interracial marraige was made a right by the U.S. Supreme Cout in 1967, the 1913 law has not been enforced in Massachusetts.
“The Massachusetts law was only brought back to enforcement for the express purpose of discriminating against same-sex couples,” Sakurai said. “So, we are now seeing a law that was once used to perpetuate racism being used to perpetuate heterosexism and anti-gay exclusion.”
“The attorney general of Massachusetts is selectively choosing which laws to enforce,” said Ashley Mushnick, president of the College Democrats, and SG president elect. “Gay couples wishing to marry should not be disadvantaged by unfair, selective treatment. Homosexuals must have the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to both law and the enforcement of law.”
Derek Heiss, a sophomore in the School of International Service and member of the AU College Republicans, said he thought the court made the right decision.
“Individual states cannot afford to bend over backward for a relatively small number of same-sex couples who wish to be legally married,” Heiss said. “I don’t think the ruling is discriminatory in any way; it’s just that Massachusetts has to take into account every type of out-of-state couple that would travel to their state to be married.”