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Boston bars out-of-state marriage licenses

Boston will not offer marriage licenses to out-of-state couples, a situation that may contribute to a farrago of conflicting legal issues less than a week before gay marriage becomes legal in Massachusetts.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Boston will not offer marriage licenses to out-of-state couples, a decision that adds to the confusing patchwork of rules less than a week before gay marriage becomes legal in Massachusetts.

The city’s chief lawyer, Merita Hopkins, issued a statement Wednesday saying the city will accept marriage applications “from everyone except partners who do not reside in Massachusetts, and neither one of which intends to reside in Massachusetts.”

However, officials said the city would not require proof of residency. Instead, couples would be required to fill out a form saying they plan to move to Massachusetts, and sign the form under penalty of perjury.

The move apparently falls in line with Gov. Mitt Romney’s efforts to limit same-sex unions by making them illegal for non-residents, although communities across the state are divided.

So far, officials in Worcester, the state’s second-largest city; the Cape Cod town of Provincetown; and the Boston suburb of Somerville have said they will issue licenses to out-of-state couples.

But officials in Cambridge and Northampton, a western Massachusetts city with a large gay population, said they would adhere to Romney’s guidelines.

Episcopal diocese bars gay marriages
Meanwhile, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, headed by three bishops who support gay marriage, said it would nonetheless bar clergy from performing gay or lesbian weddings. The diocese cited restrictive language in the canons and prayerbook of the church.

Several other denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Presbyterian Church (USA), have asked clergy not to officiate at same-sex marriages.

The Unitarian Universalist Association has endorsed same-sex unions, and other denominations, such as the United Church of Christ, have left the decision to individual clergy members.

Governor cites 1913 law
Romney has said a 1913 state law prohibits couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their marriage would not be legal in their home state. No other state recognizes same-sex marriage.

A spokesman for Romney declined to comment on Boston’s decision. He has in the past threatened legal action against city and town clerks statewide who defy his interpretation of the law.

Boston’s move came as conservative groups asked a federal judge for an injunction on the decision by the state’s highest court permitting marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples.

“It’s an unusual time that we live in, and we’re asking this court to intervene to prevent this constitutional train wreck,” said Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of the Florida-based Liberty Counsel.

The judge said he would issue a decision Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. Both sides said they would appeal if they lost.