National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: Massachusetts’ court ruling on 1913 law disappoints, time now to abolish arcane law

March 31, 2006

Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications

WASHINGTON, March 30 — Massachusetts' high court today ruled that same-sex couples from states where same-sex marriage is prohibited cannot marry in Massachusetts. The Supreme Judicial Court upheld a 1913 state law that forbids nonresidents to marry in Massachusetts — which in 2004 became the first state to allow same-sex marriage — if their marriage would not be recognized in their home state.

Statement by Eleanor (Eldie) D. Acheson Task Force Public Policy and Government Affairs Director

"Today's Massachusetts court ruling upholding the archaic 1913 law is disappointing. Other states that adopted such statutes in the early 20th century have long since abolished them. Unfortunately, the court today did not follow suit.

"There are, however, two positive elements in the decision. First, the Rhode Island and New York couple plaintiffs may proceed and establish that their marriages would not be prohibited in their home states. Perhaps the wrenching sight of Rhode Island and New York couples litigating their respective state laws in a Massachusetts court may lead those two states to the right result: the unambiguous legalization of same-sex marriage. Second, the court emphasized its clear hope that, just as the Massachusetts law in question accommodates the policy interests of other states, that others states will recognize same-sex marriages validly entered into in Massachusetts. We hope so, too.

"The best possible course in the near future is for the Massachusetts legislature to do away with this arcane and discriminatory statute.

"The Task Force commends the courage of the plaintiffs in this case and the ongoing dedication and extraordinary work of their attorneys at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)."

* In addition to New York and Rhode Island, New Jersey, New Mexico and the District of Columbia do not have laws that expressly prohibit same-sex marriage.


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.