Gay and Lesbian Weddings

photo courtesy of "CLICK IMAGERY"
photo courtesy of “CLICK IMAGERY”

On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts proudly became the first state in America to legally permit gay marriage. The law allowing same-sex marriage was the outcome of a November 2003 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that declared the prohibition of gay marriage to be a violation of the state’s constitution. At last same sex couples could obtain a marriage license, marry and have their marriages recognized by the state. It was a momentous day for many. For me, it was a joyous honor to marry some of these couples, many of which had been together for over thirty years.

On July 31, 2008 Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a bill that repealed a law dating back to 1913. By doing so same sex couples from anywhere in the country or world could come and legally marry in Massachusetts without having to reside or have the intent to reside in the state.

Although this is great news couples should be aware that whether the marriage will be respected in their home state or country is a complicated issue. In addition, because of the 1996 Federal Defense of Marriage Act, the marriages of same sex couples are not respected by the federal government and so same sex couples are not allowed access to the 1,138 federal laws that deal with marriage.

Also, should the couple at some point wish to end the marriage, unless the couple lives in a state or country which does respect the marriage, it may not be possible to dissolve the marriage until one member of the couple moves to a place which does respect the marriage and lives there long enough to meet that state or country’s residency requirements for divorce.

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