Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Massachusetts Senate votes to allow out-of-state gay couples to marry

Yesterday, the Massachusetts State Senate voted to repeal a 1913 law that effectively prevents out-of-state gay couples from marrying in Massachusetts. The dormant marriage law was originally intended to prevent interracial couples from crossing state lines to marry, thereby easing Mass.'s relationship with other states that banned interracial marriages at the time. In 2004, the ban was invigorated by then-Gov. Mitt Romney to prevent out-of-state gay couples from obtaining marriage licenses, and has since come under scrutiny by lawmakers who see the residency law as a shameful reminder of the past and out-of-touch with the Commonwealth's regard for LGBT equality.

A clear conscience isn't the only benefit driving Mass. public officials to strike down the ban, however. Early analysis from the State economic departments show repealing the law could cause a significant spike in tourism--especially from New York residents--boosting Mass.’s economy by $111 million, adding 330 jobs to the workforce, and creating $5 million in tax revenues in three-year's time. The New York Times quoted Pride Agenda E.D. Alan Van Capelle on the likelihood of gay New Yorkers choosing Massachusetts over California as a marriage destination; he foresees "A lot of Jet Blue cancellations from LaGuardia to Laguna and some Amtrak purchases from New York to Boston," adding, "Tanglewood, the Red Lion Inn, how do you say no?" Mass. Sen. Diane Wilkerson, who sponsored the repeal bill, called the economic pluses a perk to ending the discriminatory law.

Indeed, it is great that gay and lesbian New Yorkers will soon be able to drive across the border, get married, and return home with many of the state rights and responsibilities afforded to married couples. And with the stated support of the State Assembly, the Governor and a majority of New Yorkers, we especially look forward to the day when the State Senate acts to end discrimination in the Empire State by allowing us to marry those we love here at home.

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