The Corner

Marriage in Massachusetts

Bill Duncan from the Marriage Law Center e-mails about today’s ruling:

This morning the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued an opinion upholding the state law which prevents municipal clerks from issuing marriage licenses to nonresident couples prohibited from marrying in their home state. The court did, however, decide that the plaintiff couples from New York and Rhode Island should be able to present evidence that those states do not prohibit same-sex couples from marrying (and I assume in the future couples from other states can do the same). The court’s decision was limited to this holding but resulted in four separate written opinions, with various combinations of justices disagreeing about the meaning of the current law and other matters. Only one justice dissented and would have held that Massachusetts should not give effect to the “discriminatory” laws of other states. Thus, it appears that the effort, championed by Governor Romney, to cabin the effect of the earlier court decision redefining marriage to Massachusetts will continue to be effective in the short term.

If Massachusetts courts start deciding that some states would recognize same-sex marriages, couples in those states may be able to go to Massachusetts to marry. Also, if a couple validly married in Massachusetts moves to another state, the new state’s courts will have to decide whether to recognize the marriage. In either instance, the expressed policy of the home state is going to be crucial, so the importance of state statutes and constitutional amendments defining marriage will be enhanced in the future.

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