As posted on the MassEquality.org website
Judge rules gay Rhode Island couple has right to marry in Massachusetts
by Denise Lavoie, Associated Press
BOSTON -- A Superior Court judge ruled Friday that same-sex couples from Rhode Island have the right to marry in Massachusetts, finding that Rhode Island laws do not expressly prohibit gay marriage.Wendy Becker and Mary Norton of Providence, R.I., argued that a 1913 law that forbids out-of-state residents from marrying in Massachusetts if their marriage would not be permitted in their home state did not apply to them because Rhode Island does not specifically ban gay marriage.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Thomas Connolly agreed."No evidence was introduced before this court of a constitutional amendment, statute, or controlling appellate decision from Rhode Island that explicitly deems void or otherwise expressly forbids same-sex marriage," he ruled. The ruling has no effect on whether Rhode Island or any other state must allow gay marriage.
State Attorney General Thomas Reilly said he would not appeal Connolly's ruling.Reilly's office had argued that Rhode Island laws' use of gender-specific terms -- including both "bride" and "groom" -- made it clear that the laws' intent was to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
In a statement after Connolly's ruling was issued, Reilly said appealing the decision "would be a waste of time and resources.""This case has always been about respecting the laws of other states," Reilly said.Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, which represented the couples, hailed the decision "as another step toward marriage equality.""We're thrilled," said Michele Granda, a GLAD attorney.
"We know that when (Rhode Island) couples are going to marry here in Massachusetts and then go home, their neighbors and friends are going to see that marriage equality is good for those couples and harms no one else."The decision follows a related ruling in July by New York state's highest court that said that's state law limits marriage to between a man and a woman. In his ruling, Connolly backed the New York court's decision, saying that state expressly prohibits gay marriage. The ruling means same-sex couples from New York cannot come to Massachusetts to marry.
After Massachusetts became the first state in the country to legalize gay marriage in 2004, couples from many other states began lining up to get marriage licenses here. But Gov. Mitt Romney directed municipal clerks not to give licenses to out-of-state couples, citing the 1913 law.Eight out-of-state couples challenged the law.
In March, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Massachusetts could use the 1913 law to bar gay couples from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont from marrying here. But the court said the law was unclear in New York and Rhode Island, and sent that part of the case back to a lower court for clarification.