Human Rights Campaign Applauds Massachusetts Governor for Repealing 1913 Law

by HRC Staff •

Washington - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, applauded today Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick for signing legislation into law to repeal a 1913 law that prevented many out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying in Massachusetts. On Tuesday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 118-35 to repeal the 1913 law that prevented many out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying in Massachusetts. Earlier this month, the State Senate also voted to repeal the 1913 law. Same-sex couples from any state will now be able to marry in Massachusetts, although their marriage may not be recognized by their home state.

"We applaud Governor Patrick and the state legislature, MassEquality, and GLAD for repealing this antiquated and discriminatory law," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Recognizing that the fundamental right to marry knows no borders, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has indicated that it will not bar gay and lesbian couples from marrying there just because their home states have discriminatory marriage laws."

Massachusetts has recognized marriage equality under state law since the landmark Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health decision in 2003, and gay and lesbian couples have been marrying in the Commonwealth since 2004. However, in 2004, then-Gov. Mitt Romney, an opponent of marriage equality, relied on a nearly century old law to prohibit many same-sex couples from outside Massachusetts from marrying. The so-called 1913 law, named for the year it was enacted, prohibits out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their marriage would not be legally recognized in their home state. The law, which was not applied for decades before Gov. Romney enforced it, appears to have been passed in order to prohibit interracial marriages not recognized in many states at the time. Its application has prevented gay and lesbian couples from nearly every state other than New Mexico, Rhode Island, and, most recently, California, from marrying in the Bay State. New Mexico and Rhode Island do not have explicit prohibitions against marriage by same-sex couples, and California recently began recognizing marriage equality.

In June 2007, the Massachusetts legislature voted 151-45 to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment that would have rolled back marriage equality, the proposed amendment would have appeared on this November's ballot if it gained support from 50 legislators.

The so-called Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, prevents married gay and lesbian couples from receiving any rights or benefits under federal law. Additionally, in Delaware and Wisconsin, same-sex couples who marry could be subject to criminal penalties.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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