Same-sex couples in search of marriage certificates, but limited by high gas prices, may soon have a choice of two states on different coasts in which they can legally marry. On July 15, the Massachusetts senate voted to repeal an obscure law from 1913 that prevents out-of-state couples from marrying in the state if the union would not be recognized in their home state. California, the only other state in which same-sex marriages are legal, allows out-of-state couples to marry there.
Supporters of the repeal argue that the law is unnecessary and outdated, since it was originally enacted to prevent a rush of out-of-state interracial marriages that would have harmed Massachusetts’ relationship with other states. The state allowed interracial marriage as early as 1843. Although rarely used, former Governor Mitt Romney, a same-sex marriage opponent who ran for the Republican presidential nomination this year, invoked the law in 2004 when his state, by order of the high court, became the first in the nation to allow same-sex marriages.
Opponents of repeal argue that the law has no racist tinge. The say that the law is necessary to uphold states’ rights and keep same-sex marriages from spreading to other states that have already passed constitutional bans on them.
Economic considerations also play heavily in the effort to repeal the ban on out-of-state same-sex marriages. According to the Boston Globe, an analysis by the state Office of Housing and Economic Development found that repealing the law would draw thousands of couples to Massachusetts. These visits, for the purpose of marriage, would boost the state economy by $111 million, create 330 jobs and generate $5 million in taxes and fees over three years.
The Massachusetts House is expected to follow the Senate in voting for repeal of the law, and Democratic Governor Deval Patrick is expected to sign the repeal. His 18-year-old daughter, Katherine, came out as a lesbian in June.
Same-sex marriage advocates hope to use the Massachusetts repeal and the economic considerations to rally nearby states to legalize same-sex marriage. In New York, where same-sex marriage is not legal, Governor David Paterson announced in May that same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere would be recognized in his state.
Opponents of same-sex marriage may point to the competing marriage requirements of different states in order to show why a state ban is needed.