All eyes will be on the US state of Massachusetts this Monday when it becomes the first place in the country to legally allow same-sex couples to marry.
Despite last-minute attempts by conservative groups to overturn the decision, the state’s highest court isn’t letting anything get in the way of their ruling for same-sex marriage licences to be issued from 17 May.
Excitement is mounting amongst the state’s gay and lesbian community, with the city of Cambridge planning to open City Hall at 12am on Monday to start giving couples licences. The Cambridge mayor will begin celebrations at 11pm the night before with a wedding cake and music, Washington Blade reported.
But as a great a milestone as it is, same-sex couples in the rest of America are disappointed that only residents of Massachusetts can take advantage of the new laws.
According to an obscure state law written in 1913, it is illegal to marry an out-of-state couple whose marriage would not be recognised in their home state -“ which in this case is every other state in America. Some councils in Massachusetts say they will marry out-of-state couples anyway, with the board of selectmen in Provincetown voting unanimously in favour of issuing licences to out-of-state couples.
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, has threatened to take legal action against city and town clerks who do not obtain proof of residency from same-sex couples.
Attorney Mary Bonauto told Gay.com, I find it sad that the Massachusetts governor would penalise a town for recognising that Massachusetts has no business denying marriage licences to same-sex couples whether they are Massachusetts residents or not.
It was Bonauto who represented the seven gay couples who successfully sued the state into recognising gay marriage. The Supreme Judicial Court ruled 4-3 last November that it was unconstitutional to bar same-sex couples from marriage. These seven couples are expected to be the first to get married on Monday.
However the victory may be short-lived. The state Legislature recently approved a constitutional amendment which, if approved by voters in a referendum in November 2006, would ban gay marriage but legalise civil unions.
Meanwhile as couples prepare to tie the knot next week, some gay-rights activists are worried media coverage of flamboyant gay weddings could damage their cause. Any sort of bizarre or hyper-unusual weddings will be used as a weapon against the gay community in the political battles of this upcoming year, said Arlene Isaacson, co-leader of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. We obviously have some concerns some media outlets may focus on the flamboyant.
Gay marriage opponents have been trying desperately to overturn the ruling. The Supreme Judicial Court last week unanimously rejected an appeal by 13 state lawmakers to reverse its decision, with the lawmakers arguing the court lacked jurisdiction in the case under the state constitution. The same court also rejected a petition by the Catholic Action League to hold off from legalising gay marriage until the issue is voted on in the 2006 referendum.
Having exhausted all efforts within the state courts, conservative groups this week filed a motion with the federal court to overturn the ruling.