Boston Blocks Marriage of Nonresident Gays

Times Staff Writer

Gay and lesbian couples from out of state who seek marriage licenses here beginning Monday will be turned away, Boston officials said Thursday.

But as Massachusetts prepares to become the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, authorities in at least three other communities said they would ignore a 1913 law that bars couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their unions would not be recognized in their home states.

The residency dispute followed an edict from Gov. Mitt Romney, who had his chief legal advisor inform city and town clerks that same-sex couples must swear that they live -- or intend to live -- in Massachusetts if they want to purchase marriage licenses.


The Republican governor, an opponent of marriage for gays and lesbians, also tried unsuccessfully to introduce legislation that would have put same-sex marriage on hold pending passage of a constitutional amendment making it illegal.

In another effort to block same-sex marriage, a group of conservative organizations went to federal court earlier this week, arguing that the high court of Massachusetts had overstepped its authority when it authorized marriage for gays and lesbians.

But U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro on Thursday rejected that argument.

Tauro said it was “the exclusive function” of the Supreme Judicial Court to rule on matters that arose from the oldest constitution in the Western Hemisphere.

“To rule that through its actions [the court] usurped the power of the Massachusetts Legislature and violated the federal Constitution would be to deprive that court of its authority and obligation to consider and resolve, with finality, Massachusetts’ constitutional issues,” Tauro said.

As the confusion over residency requirements continued, at least one Massachusetts city, Cambridge, has said it will issue licenses to gays and lesbians beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The Cambridge clerk will require that couples declare they are Massachusetts residents.

Neighboring Somerville, however, will not ask couples for proof of residency. Clerks in Worcester, the state’s second largest city, and in the Cape Cod resort community of Provincetown also have said they will issue licenses to out-of-state couples.


Merita Hopkins, the chief lawyer for Boston, said the city would grant marriage licenses to “everyone except partners who do not reside in Massachusetts, and neither one of which intends to reside in Massachusetts.” But, Hopkins said, the city will not demand documentation from people seeking a marriage license to prove state residency.

With the Monday launch for gay and lesbian marriage now unavoidable, Archbishop Sean Patrick O’Malley issued a statement Thursday expressing “great sadness” over “the creation of same-sex marriages here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

O’Malley, head of Boston’s Roman Catholic archdiocese, added: “Our hope is that, at some point in the very near future, our legislators will enact laws” to preserve marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

In a controversy that has raged since the state’s highest court ruled in November that Massachusetts must extend the rights of marriage to gays and lesbians, other clergy have entered the fray by decreeing who can and cannot officiate at same-sex nuptials.

Although its three bishops support marriage for gays and lesbians, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts will bar its priests from presiding at same-sex weddings. Officials from the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also have told pastors, ministers and priests not to solemnize gay and lesbian weddings.

The Greek Orthodox Church, the National Baptist Convention and the Church of God in Christ also are not permitting its clergy members to sanctify same-sex marriages.


But the Unitarian Universalist Assn., based in Boston, will encourage ministers to officiate at gay and lesbian ceremonies. In fact, the website of the Unitarian church has posted a “same-sex wedding planning guide.”

Massachusetts law requires a three-day waiting period once a marriage license is issued. But couples can purchase a court waiver enabling them to marry immediately.

All seven of the plaintiff couples in the lawsuit that prompted the Supreme Judicial Court decision are expected to exchange vows Monday.

Lead plaintiffs Julie and Hillary Goodridge are set to marry Monday afternoon at the Beacon Hill headquarters of the Unitarian Universalist Assn.

Later that evening, ABC’s “Nightline” will televise the ceremony as co-plaintiffs David Wilson and Robert Compton trade vows at a Unitarian Universalist church in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.

That church, the Arlington Street Church, has same-sex weddings scheduled at 20-minute intervals beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday, the first day the marriages will be possible without a court waiver.


Despite the opposition from some religious denominations, 45% of gay respondents to an informal Internet survey released Thursday by the Massachusetts Freedom to Marry Coalition, a grass-roots advocacy group, said they planned to be married by members of the clergy.

Respondents to the poll of 493 gay and lesbian couples also said they planned to be married in their hometowns, naming 133 towns and cities in Massachusetts where they will apply for licenses. More than one-third said they would marry the week of May 17, as soon as the unions become legal. Almost 50% said they would marry before the end of the year.