Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Marriage of Inconvenience and Politics...

The Massachusetts Senate has taken the first step to repeal the 1913 law forbidding those from out of state to be married in Massachusetts if their union would be illegal in their home state. The law was written so as not to subvert laws in the south prohibiting interracial marriage. Moot for decades, it was reactivated after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that not allowing gay couples to be married was unconstitutional.

The House, although not guaranteed to, will probably follow suit and Gov. Patrick has said that he would "proudly" sign it. This would put Massachusetts on par with California in that it would allow out state couples to get married and then challenge their states prohibitions under Article Four (Full Faith and Credit Clause).

This blog fully supports equal rights for gay couples, however, as lame and minor as it sounds, this blog questions the importance and effectiveness of using the same word. In other words, the nomenclature of the unions is irrelevant. A Civil Union is a perfectly acceptable term for Gay unions and this blog would wholeheartedly oppose any effort to make them in any way deficient or secondary to marriage. However, it seems impossible to wholly "divorce" the term marriage from its original religious roots. If an equality in words, which would really be the only difference, is necessary than a more dramatic step may be needed.

The sudden appearance of the issue in the legislature is no doubt due to California's recent court ruling striking down the ban on gay marriage. Massachusetts legislators seem eager to dive the state head first into this issue. Most likely are the arrival of New England residents where civil unions, but not marriage is legal. However, this may be ineffective as a gay couple married in Massachusetts are automatically considered to possess of NH Civil Union. Conversely, New Yorkers may be in full swing as their state will recognize gay marriage from another state, but cannot officiate them. Much more cynically, as the New York Times suggested today, marriage tourists, if you will, may decsend upon Massachusetts unable to afford the passage to California and give a boost the the wobbly economy.

All of this ramp up may be moot due to the controversial Defense of Marriage Act. Taking advantage of the Federal Government's ability to define what qualifies for full faith and credit the bill allows other states to ignore out of state gay marriages and unions that the state in question does not approve of. This should seem cut and dry, but unfortunately this article of the Constitution has not seen much in the way of rulings.

Although the change in individual states would permit out of state couples to assert rights relating to life and death decisions and the like, it would do nothing to change federal law. Even if the Supreme Court ruled that individual states cannot stop their residents from going to a gay-friendly state, get married, and return married, Federal law would remain unchanged and prevent a multitude of benefits from being made available to gay couples.

This blog understands the shameful history of the 1913 law at issue and feels its repeal would be just. However, injecting this state, for the sake of people who are not even residents, into this may not win us much as many couples, like Rosie O'Donnell, have opted to wait until the entire nation makes the change. Further, it could serve to harm our state's standing and influence in the future. It is disgusting that others would use it against Massachusetts like this, but unfortunately the world is filled with such vengeful hateful people.

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