Massachusetts High Court Upholds Marriage Restrictions

Special Report - March 31, 2006

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that same-sex couples living outside of Massachusetts may not legally marry there if same-sex marriage is unlawful in their home state. The ruling comes after eight couples challenged a 1913 state law that prohibits couples who live in other states from getting married in Massachusetts if that union is considered invalid in their state of residence. The court determined that Massachusetts “Has a significant interest in not meddling in matters in which another State, the one where a couple actually resides, has a paramount interest.”

In 2003, this same court ruled that same-sex “marriage” was lawful, making Massachusetts the first state in the country to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples. The court recognized that the 1913 law disproportionately affects out-of-state homosexual couples because Massachusetts is the only state to recognize same-sex marriage. “However,” the court wrote, “the laws of this Commonwealth have not endowed nonresidents with an unfettered right to marry. To the contrary, the rights of nonresidents to marry in Massachusetts have been specifically restricted.”

Though the ruling rejected most of the couple’s claims, it returned the request of those from New York and Rhode Island back to the lower court so that the judge can determine whether same-sex marriage is unlawful in those states. Neither state has a law explicitly prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Copyright © 2006. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.