Saturday, March 26, 2005

New Terms in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts legislature seems to be in no hurry to fine-tune its marriage-related laws to adjust for same-sex couples. There actually aren'’t all that many, but Chapters 207, 208 and 209 have a lot of husband, widower, wife, widow and other gender-specific terms.

Many of these laws have neutral sections. For example, Chapter 207: Section 19: Notice of Intention of Marriage refers to “"Persons intending to be joined in marriage in the commonwealth.”"

Some require only a title change. For one, the text of Chapter 209: Section 38 refers to “parent.” However the title is "“Married Women Abandoned by Their Husbands, Etc."” Similarly, the whole chapter has the title “"Husband and Wife.”"

A few will cause a bit of head scratching, such as Chapter 207: Section 1: Marriage of Man to Certain Relatives:
No man shall marry his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, stepmother, grandfather's wife, grandson's wife, wife's mother, wife's grandmother, wife's daughter, wife's granddaughter, brother's daughter, sister's daughter, father's sister or mother's sister.
There is a woman’'s section that follows. So, do the lawmakers combine them and repeal one or tweak two?

Still others may lead the legislature to edit them to gender neutrality just to avoid future issues. One is Chapter 207:Section 4:Polygamy.
A marriage contracted while either party thereto has a former wife or husband living, except as provided in section six and in chapter two hundred and eight, shall be void.
That is kind of neutral, even with the traditional role terms.

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