updated 7/26/2007 6:44:14 PM ET 2007-07-26T22:44:14

Gay couples from New Mexico can marry in Massachusetts because their home state has not explicitly banned same-sex marriage, Massachusetts officials say.

New Mexico joins Rhode Island as the only states whose gay residents are allowed to marry in Massachusetts, the only state that has legalized same-sex marriage. But neither Rhode Island nor New Mexico has said it would recognize the marriages after its residents return home.

Stanley Nyberg, Massachusetts’ Registrar of Vital Records, instructed city and town clerks in a July 18 notice to give marriage licenses to gay couples from New Mexico.

Alexis Blizman, executive director of the pro-gay marriage group Equality New Mexico, said she was pleased by the decision, but predicted it would not lead to a rush to Massachusetts.

“It’s just another reminder that New Mexican same-sex couples need legal protections and rather than having them seek them out elsewhere, certainly we’d rather have them be able to achieve those here at home,” she said.

Massachusetts began marrying same-sex couples in 2004. Then-Gov. Mitt Romney prohibited out-of-state couples from marrying in the state, citing a 1913 law that bars Massachusetts from marrying couples unable to legally marry in their home states.

In March 2006, the state’s highest court ruled that the 1913 law applies only to states where gay marriage was explicitly banned. It is not banned in Rhode Island or New Mexico.

Rhode Island still considering recognition
In February, two bills that would have banned same-sex marriage in New Mexico were killed when a House committee tabled them. A domestic partnership bill that would have given gay couples many of the same rights as married couples also died in the Legislature earlier this year.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said he would not recommend whether the state should legally recognize gay marriages from Massachusetts until the issue comes up, a spokesman said.

Rhode Island officials have not decided whether to recognize gay marriages from Massachusetts, despite a recommendation to do so by state Attorney General Patrick Lynch.

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