Paul Cates,
LGBT Project
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August 8, 2008

On July 31, 2008, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill repealing a 1913 law that kept many out-of-state lesbian and gay couples from marrying in Massachusetts. The law said you couldn’t marry in Massachusetts if you couldn’t marry in your home state. Back in 2004 when Massachusetts became the first state in the country to allow same-sex couples to marry, then Governor Mitt Romney invoked the law to bar same-sex couples from most of the rest of the country. Thanks to the state legislature and Governor Patrick, that law is no more and same-sex couples are now able to marry in Massachusetts.

Many couples across the country have literally been waiting their entire lives in order to be able to marry. So news that they now choose tie the knot on the Pacific coast at Malibu or in the Berkshire Mountains is especially welcome.

While lesbian and gay couples shouldn’t feel shy about planning weddings in California and Massachusetts where they can celebrate their commitments to each other in front of friends and family, there are some practical realities that couples should consider before picking up a marriage license. We’ve developed FAQs on getting married in California and Massachusetts that answer some of the questions couples are likely encounter.

There’s also the whole question of what you should do about your marriage when you get home. Soon after the California Supreme Court issued its landmark decision saying it was unconstitutional for the state to continue to bar lesbian and gay couples from marrying there, the national LGBT legal and advocacy groups issued a joint statement, “Make Change, Not Lawsuits.” The statement urges people to insist that their marriages are respected. But it also says that bringing lawsuits about them isn’t necessarily a good idea. Now that Massachusetts has opened its doors to lesbian and gay couples from outside the state, that same advice applies for couples who marry in Massachusetts.

We’ve come a long way in the freedom to marry in a relatively short time but we still have a long way to go before marriage for lesbian and gay couples is recognized in all 50 states. A poorly planned lawsuit could set us back years. If you think you’ve been harmed because your California or Massachusetts marriage isn’t recognized in your home state, please talk to us before going to court.