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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Massachusetts Lawsuit Challenges a 1913 Law

The Associated Press is reporting that a lawsuit challenging a 1913 Massachusetts law prohibiting the marriage of out-of-state couples who are prohibited from marrying in their home states was argued today before the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. The suit was filed on behalf of eight gay couples from surrounding states who have been denied marriage licenses in Massachusetts. The court is expected to rule on the case sometime in the next few months.

Michele Granda, a gay-rights lawyer for the couples, argued before the high court Thursday that the 1913 law ''sat on the shelf'' unused for decades until it was ''dusted off'' by the governor.

Granda said the high court, in its historic ruling legalizing gay marriage, found that under the Massachusetts Constitution, same-sex couples had the same right to marry as heterosexual couples.

''Nothing in (that ruling) says that our officials can discriminate simply because officials in other states discriminate,'' Granda told the six-judge panel.

Attorneys for the state argued that the law is being enforced in an evenhanded way for both heterosexual and same-sex couples.

Assistant Attorney General Peter Sacks said Massachusetts risks a ''backlash'' if it flouts the laws of others states by marrying gay couples from states that prohibit it. ''We've got respect for other states' laws,'' he said.

For reasons that I discussed on Sunday in a piece entitled Why We Need a Constitutional Amendment Protecting Marriage , this ruling will likely have nationwide ramifications, both for those in favor of and for those opposed to same-sex marriage.

We need to keep a close watch on this one.

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