Monday, November 05, 2007

Martha's Shot at 1913 Laws

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your marriage licenses. Our AG Martha Coakley has the opportunity to right one of the worst wrongs of her blundering predecessor Tom Reilly. The infamous statutes (General Laws Chapter 207, Sections 11, 12, 13 and 50) that prevent out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying here are headed to the SJC.

As reported
in the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror, 13 town and city clerks have filed to take the case all the way. Led by the outspoken Nantucket Town Clerk Catherine Flanagan Stover, the clerks claim that these laws violate the Goodridge decision of four years ago.

I'm not sure what the list means. In addition to Stover, the clerks who joined in are from Acton, Burlington, Cambridge, Marblehead, Northhampton, Plymouth, Provincetown, Rowe, Sherborn, Somerville, Westford and Worcester. The hot shot firm of Palmer & Dodge represents the clerks in the person of attorney Kevin Batt.

I'm with them. Despite Reilly's dissembling, these laws were meant to keep Black and white mixed couples from marrying. Then Gov. Mitt Romney and Reilly pulled them from obscurity and used them as a weapon to prevent claims that we were exporting SSM. They have not prevented heterosexual couples from marrying here when their marriages (like first cousins) would be valid here but not in their home states.

As Stover so aptly puts it, "My personal feeling is I believe if the law is going to be applied it should be applied even-handedly. It’s all or nothing."

I have repeatedly called for Gov. Deval Patrick and the legislative leaders to knock off these disgraceful laws, like here. Democratic Party officials and even some marriage-equality advocates begged to defer action until the amendment to overturn Goodridge went down. It did in June and these warts on our legal face remain.

Meanwhile, Batt has asked for a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the statutes. That might prod the sleeping General Court to do its duty on this.

In lieu of that, Coakley's office has until April to respond to the suit, which could bring arguments in the fall of 2008. I see no reason for her not to file saying there was no reason to enforce the laws, leading to an injunction and either the SJC ruling the laws invalid or the legislature showing some guts.

It's past time, plus, I have friends from out of state eager to have me perform their weddings.

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Anonymous said...

You do know that the Massachusetts allows firt cousins to marry. In fact all the New England states allow cousin marraige except for NH. It is illegal in NH to marry your cousin, however, Massachusetts still allows people to marry their cousin even if their cousins are from NH. To me they are violating the Romney interpretation right there. Also, it is a little known fact here in the US that there is no big deal about marrying your cousin. There is no genetic problem. In fact, I believe that the United States is the only country in the world that bans this type of marriage and it is limited to a few states, one being NH.

Anonymous said...

They have not prevented heterosexual couples from marrying here when their marriages (like first cousins) would be valid here but not in their home states.

Do you have a citation for that?

That said - I will ask again what I've asked for 5 years - if you don't like a law, why don't your repeal it? WHY do the courts even need to be involved?

massmarrier said...

You made me check the latest for other states. I knew about Massachusetts. I also know that second cousins are legal for marriage in all states. However, checking I see that the following forbid first cousin marriage:

* Arkansas
* Delaware
* Idaho
* Iowa
* Kentucky
* Michigan
* Missouri
* New Hampshire
* Ohio
* Pennsylvania
* South Dakota
* Washington
* Wyoming

That's a longer list than I figured since the link to birth defects and such has been disproven for so long.

Anonymous said...

I believe first cousin marriage is legal in 22 states. I know of two couples who were married in Massachusetts over the past five who are first cousins. However, if you were married in another state NH would recognize your marriage. This changed a few years ago when the Republican legislature passed the law against gay marriage. They threw in first cousin marriages with gay marriage. First Cousin marriages are now illegal in NH whether or not they are performed in another state. My question is why is Massachusetts allowing cousins to marry from NH when it is illegal here. Should they not be applying it equally across the board?

massmarrier said...

Yo, Anon (why don't you sign in?), I can't prove the negative on this. GLAD's lawyers said it was not applied to heterosexual couples, that there was no proof it had. Rather than get any evidence from clerks of turned-away straights, Reilly just said that the laws were written so that they could apply to both as proof that they had been. Even as a CYA, that's pretty lame.

The clerks involved the courts almost immediately (and lost the first round) because they wanted clarity in their duties as well as fairness. Meanwhile, I have plugged repeatedly for the legislature to do the right thing quickly and show that we pay more than lip service to making our laws match our principles.

We can ask DiMasi, (Therese) Murray and Deval Patrick why they haven't done the obvious post haste. I know they're busy with budgets, but this is quick, easy and necessary. We look like retrograde hicks on this.