A deep irony relating to our nefarious 1913 out-of-state marriage statutes lies in the etiquette issue. New Englanders and particularly Bostonians take great pride in claims of being America's intellectuals. Understandably though, they don't brag about how well mannered they are. Instead, nationwide and even worldwide, we are known for being brusque and for expecting visitors to adapt to us. Thank you very much and do it right now.
It is in this one area -- General Laws Chapter 207, Sections 11, 12, 13 and 50 -- that we humiliate ourselves. We roll on our back like a dog exposing its belly. Please, please, let us be the only state to accommodate whatever marriage laws you have. Pay no attention to our legal marriages. We humbly beseech you for approval.
Let us be plain about this. We are the only state playing this game. The others tell us our marriages they wouldn't have performed are worth less than dirt. We thank them.
Worcester's Telegram had a nice recap yesterday on the appeasers' arguments for keeping these laws. It's worth reading for a chuckle or three.
First of all, unless you are anti-gay, anti-marriage equality or both, there is no reason to offer any defense of these laws. They are entirely one-sided and have always been such. If other states recognize our other civil laws and procedures, down to driving licenses, they need to deal with the rest of them, as we do with theirs.
Beyond marriage, there are others that may be parallel. For instance, states have different regulations about physicians or attorneys or realtors who can practice there. That's different, but the same. It shows how states can create and enforce their own laws and regulations, sometimes honoring another states for comity's sake and other times demanding adherence to local standards.
However, marriage is generally the exception. Until then President Bill Clinton's right-wing pandering support for the the Defense of Marriage Act, state governments had no expectation that they could actively discriminate against homosexuals in marriage. Not only had it not arisen before Vermont's civil unions and our Goodridge decision, but denying comity in marriage among states had only been meaningful when it was legal to forbid interracial marriages in some states.
In 2007, it is outrageous that we alone would become the appeasers. Suddenly, then Gov. Willard Romney and then AG Tom Reilly held that Massachusetts had to shield other states from legal challenges to their marriage laws, to statutes that forbade homosexual marriages.
Yet, from the beginning of this nation, we have advanced often through court challenges and legal interpretations. It is never a continuous climb to egalitarianism and equality, but we do ascend slowly and steadily, albeit with switchbacks.
Not only is it not Massachusetts' job to be the passive and obedient child with bowed head trying not to offend 40 some sibling states. The beach is broad and the tide continues to lap. With many thousands of married same-sex couples legally united here, how is it that we are to protect those delicate Virginia, South Carolina and Wyoming courts from the terror of having to discuss their discriminatory and defensive marriage laws and amendments?
We need to get real about this. Comity rides respect. We honor your laws; you honor our laws; we all get along.
It is not our duty to kowtow to the bigots. When legally married Massachusetts couples move to their states, they may have to deal with it. Perhaps their laws and amendments rejecting those marriages will withstand scrutiny and court challenges. Perhaps they won't.
Tags: massmarrier, Massachusetts, same sex marriage, comity