Officials in Cape Cod’s gay tourism mecca of Provincetown have voted to offer marriage licenses to out-of-state same-sex couples, potentially setting the stage for another legal battle over gay marriage.
Ignoring Republican Gov. Mitt Romney’s opposition, the town’s selectmen unanimously decided Monday to issue marriage certificates to all couples, regardless of residency.
Romney immediately issued a statement Monday threatening legal action against city and town clerks statewide who defy his interpretation of the law.
Romney’s office has warned clerks that they will be required to seek proof of residency or the intention to move to Massachusetts from all couples — gay and straight — who are seeking to marry as of Monday, when same-sex weddings become legal.
“We are a nation of laws,” Romney said in the statement. “If they choose to break the law, we will take appropriate enforcement action, refuse to recognize those marriages, and inform the parties that the marriage is null and void.”
But the Provincetown Board of Selectmen said gay couples who live outside Massachusetts and have no intention of moving here will still be issued marriage licenses, as long as they attest that they know of no legal impediment to their union.
Provincetown town clerk Doug Johnstone did not return a call for comment early Tuesday.
Romney based his decision on a 1913 Massachusetts law that says couples cannot be married here if such a marriage would be void in the state in which they live. And no other state currently recognizes gay marriages.
Huge crowds are expected in Provincetown on Monday, the day that the decision by the Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest court, takes effect that legalizes gay marriage in Massachusetts. For months, business owners and hoteliers in the gay-friendly seaside town at the tip of Cape Cod have been preparing for an anticipated summer rush of gay weddings.
Romney’s office has said the consequences of an illegal marriage could be severe for the couple, particularly if they have children, because of legal questions of support and custody.