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Mass. prepares Gay marriage bill for out-of-staters
Mass. prepares Gay marriage bill for out-of-staters
by Lisa Keen - Keen News Service

By the end of the month, if not the week, Massachusetts is expected to follow California's lead and approve a bill making it possible for out-of-state Gay couples to marry in that state.

The Massachusetts Senate approved the bill Tuesday, the House is expected to do so within days, and Democratic Governor Deval Patrick has promised to sign the legislation.

The bill will repeal an existing law which was approved in 1913 to prevent interracial couples from obtaining marriage licenses in Massachusetts and then returning to their home states, where their marriages were prohibited. It went virtually unused until 2004, when then-Governor Mitt Romney dusted it off to block same-sex couples from other states from obtaining a marriage license. The state supreme court had ordered state officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the same as they do to straight couples, beginning in May 2004. But the court also upheld the validity of the 1913 law to be used to block marriages in Massachusetts by out-of-state Gay couples. Under the ruling, only same-sex couples from Rhode Island could qualify for marriage licenses in Massachusetts. According to the Boston Herald, about 100 Rhode Island couples have taken advantage of the ruling by seeking a marriage license in Massachusetts, though the status of their marriages in Rhode Island has yet to be tested.

So, while Massachusetts, in 2004, became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, California this year became the first to allow licensing of same-sex marriages between couples from any state.

According to the report from the Williams Institute, which specializes in analysis of laws and policies concerning sexual orientation, about half of the state's 22,000 same-sex couples have married since May 17, 2004, when equal marriage licensing went into effect. In a report last month, the group said repeal of the 1913 law would likely lead to more than 32,000 out-of-state same-sex couples marrying in Massachusetts over the next three years. It said the boom could also bring $111 million in new revenue and $5 million in new marriage license fees and taxes.

A similar report prepared by the Williams Institute concerning California predicted that more than 51,000 same-sex couples living in California will marry during the first three years of that state's equal marriage enforcement. It predicted more than 67,000 same-sex couples from other states would travel to California to be married.

Democratic Governor Patrick, who is a strong supporter of equal rights for Gays and who has an openly Gay daughter, has said he will sign the measure into law. Patrick said he supports the bill not because of its potential to bring an economic benefit to the state but because the existing law is discriminatory and repealing it is "the right thing to do."

Also on Tuesday, the Massachusetts House passed a bill to provide for equal treatment of same-sex married couples under the state's public health insurance program for low and medium-income residents, MassHealth. That bill, too, passed by voice vote.

©2008 Keen News Service

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