Human Rights Campaign Applauds Massachusetts Legislature for Voting to Repeal 1913 Law

by HRC Staff

Pro-Equality legislation now moves to governor's desk

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, applauded today the Massachusetts House of Representatives for voting 118-35 to repeal a 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. The legislation now moves to Gov. Deval Patrick, who is expected to ok the repeal. Once the 1913 law is repealed, same-sex couples from any state will be able to marry in Massachusetts, although their marriage may not be recognized by their home state, and in at least two states, Delaware and Wisconsin, same-sex couples who marry could be subject to criminal penalties.

"We congratulate Senate President Therese Murray, House Speaker Sal DiMasi, Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, other members of the legislature, MassEquality, and GLAD for this latest step forward toward full equality," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "We also thank Gov. Deval Patrick for his leadership in supporting the repeal of this antiquated and discriminatory law. This is an important step toward making clear that marriage equality for committed gay and lesbian couples means full equality under the law."

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.

"This is a true victory for equality. In repealing this law we've sent the message loud and clear that in Massachusetts, we respect and honor all families. We've ridded our state laws of the last vestige of discrimination against same-sex couples, and we once again lead the way for equality for all people," said MassEquality Executive Director Marc Solomon.

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.

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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