The House today voted 118 to 35 to repeal a 1913 state law that prevents gay and lesbian couples from most other states from marrying in Massachusetts.
The measure, which the Senate passed earlier this month, will head to the desk of Governor Deval Patrick, who is expected to sign it into law. The move will clear the way for out-of-state couples to marry in Massachusetts, making it the second state to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry regardless of their place of residence.
"I'm glad that we finally did it," said Representative Byron Rushing, a Boston Democrat, who described the repeal on the House floor as a "question of fairness and … a question of equality."
After the vote, Rushing said he hoped lawmakers or the governor would add an emergency preamble to the bill to speed its effect and allow for September weddings.
Unlike the Senate, which quickly voted to repeal the law on a unanimous voice vote, the House debated the bill for about 45 minutes.
Supporters of the repeal called the law archaic and rooted in racism, urging fellow lawmakers to strip it from the books in the interest of equality. Repeal opponents argued for keeping the law in deference to other states, to prevent legal tangles involving couples who would marry in Massachusetts and want rights in states where gay marriage is outlawed.
"Any marriage has three willing partners: the two willing [spouses] and an approving state," said Representative John A. Lepper, an Attleboro Republican who spoke against the repeal.
Lepper said striking the law from the books could create a legal limbo for same-sex couples from out of state. He pointed to a Rhode Island couple as an example, saying they could not now seek a divorce because their home state did not recognize their marriage. "It seems if the 1913 law is repealed we would be leading ourselves into a legal nightmare," Lepper said.
The bill has also drawn condemnation from opponents of same-sex marriage, including Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and the state's three other Catholic bishops. O'Malley and the bishops want the 1913 law kept on the books for constitutional, religious, and cultural reasons. They said eliminating the law would infringe on the rights of other states to set their own marriage laws.
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This is yet another step in the right direction for not only equality, but for healing the division groups like Massachusetts Family Institute have fostered. Moving forward from here we should focus on how to live together in peace instead of bickering over a now closed chapter in Massachusetts history. Those of you who need to dwell can scream "Let the people vote" all you like, it will never happen, so I suggest it will be less painful for you to get over it and move on. We have mutual problems we can now put our collective minds together to solve, like feeding the hungry, and finding heat for the poor before they are actually cold. As our beloved governor says, "Together we can".