Sunday, April 25, 2004

Romney - Out of Staters Need Not Apply 

Boston.com reports that Gov. Mitt Romney has now taken it upon himself to interpret the marriage laws of every other state in the nation, and has declared that only gay residents of Massachusetts will be able to marry in Massachusetts. Despite Attorney General Tom O'Reilly's determination that the recently dusted off 1913 marriage statute would bar issuance of marriage licenses to gay couples from any of the 38 states who have laws specifically banning gay marriage, Romney has decided that unless a state has a law specifically authorizing gay marriage, then gay marriage is specifically illegal in that state.

Our esteemed governor can't even agree with how the Massachusetts Supreme Judical Court interprets the Massachusetts constitution, but nonetheless he is interpreting every other state's constitution and how the highest court of that state would interpret a challenge regarding gay marriage.

According to Boston.com:

This week, Romney will send letters to the governors and attorneys general of the 49 other states, explaining to them that same-sex marriages are due to start in Massachusetts on May 17, and informing them that it is his administration's view that gay marriage is not legal in their state. The letter will ask other state officials to inform the governor "if we're wrong" about that, Fehrnstrom said.

The NY Times also has a lengthy article on the governor's announcement. Apparently Romney is afraid of Massachusetts becoming the "Las Vegas of same-sex marriage," and adding confusion to the various marriage laws of the country. He is also pulling out the child card, stating that:

...his main motivation was to protect a same-sex couple's children if the couple separated and "one or the other of them would stand up and say, `Hey, I don't owe you any alimony, I don't owe this child any child support because the marriage was null and void to begin with.'

I find myself quite angered over the governor's continued actions and statements, such as justifying his actions because he is obligated to enforce all the state's laws including the 1913 statute, and that he cannot simply pick and choose which to enforce. He has and continues to do everything in or beyond his power to avoid enforcing the Goodridge decision, which as of May 17 makes gay marriage part of the law of Massachusetts. If he's worried about damage to children should marriages be declared null and void, then take efforts to validate the marriages, don't put additional roadblocks in front of them.

However much I disagree with the governor, I have to admit that this latest is a brilliant maneuver. He's putting the burden of proving him wrong on the other 49 governors. There are some flaws in the implementation, though. Town clerks are going to be instructed to require identification from all applicants, gay or straight, proving Massachusetts residence. All out of state applicants will continue to be required to sign affadavits that there is no impediment to their being legally married in their home state. But while straight couples will be issued a license once they've signed the affadavit, it appears that there will be no point in even having the gay out of state couples get to the affadavit stage, since the governor has pre-emptively declared that any such signature would be perjury. I saw no mention that the clerks will equally be kept apprised of the other marriage restrictions of the several states, restrictions which might bar a heterosexual couple from marrying in that state.

The governor's actions demonstrate his committment to continue discriminating against gay couples as long as possible. Many (myself included) have speculated that his efforts are aimed at bolstering his reputation among conservative voters and the Republican party. My hope is that history will look back on the governor's actions as desperate attempts to cling to by-then outdated prejudices and fears.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12:47 PM