When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued the Goodridge decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the Commonwealth, many people inside and outside the state became concerned about couples coming from other states to marry in Massachusetts. In the first few days of same-sex marriage, marriage licenses were issued to non-residents, and have resulted in decisions such as Chambers v. Ormiston which held that Rhode Island courts did not have jurisdiction to hear a divorce case between two people of the same-sex because the state did not recognize the marriage.
However, Governor Mitt Romney quickly dusted off the Marriage Evasion Act M.G.L.A. 207 § 11. This law was enacted in 1913 and prohibits the marriage of a non-resident in Massachusetts if the marriage would be illegal in their home state. Governor Romney ordered town clerks to strictly enforce the law when handing out marriage licenses.
The original intent of the law is unknown for there is no record of the legislative history. However, the law was enacted during a time when the majority of states (30 out of 48) outlawed interracial marriage, and it is commonly believed that this law was meant to smooth relations between Massachusetts, which has allowed interracial marriage since 1843, and those states that banned such marriages. Massachusetts State Senator Harry Ney Stearns sponsored the 1913 Law on March 7, 1913 and the bill was signed three weeks later by Governor Eugene N. Foss
On July 15, 2008 the Massachusetts Senate voted to approve a bill that will repeal the 1913 law and the House is expected to vote in the near future. Repealing the law paves the way for out-of-state same-sex couples to marry in Massachusetts. Opponents argue that repealing the law meddles in the internal affairs of other states, forcing them to recognize gay marriage, and creates a legal limbo for families. On the other hand, proponents argue that the law should be repealed as a “vile and antiquated remnant of prejudice and bigotry.”
How will the repeal of this bill affect New Hampshire residents? As previously discussed on this blog, New Hampshire allows civil unions and recognizes out-of-state marriages as civil unions. If the Massachusetts house votes to repeal the law, New Hampshire residents may marry in Massachusetts, and return home to have their marriage recognized as a civil union.
There are many in-depth articles chronicling the path of Massachusetts in repealing this law and its effect on same-sex marriage. Some of these articles are below: