ACLU Helps Same-Sex Couples Considering Getting Married in Massachusetts

November 25, 2003 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today released a practical guide for same-sex couples considering getting married in Massachusetts. The guide, “Thinking of Getting Married in Massachusetts?” answers basic questions for lesbians and gay men about getting married in Massachusetts, including when the new law will likely into effect, how to get a license, and how the marriage is likely to be received in other states. The guide is available at

“This is a very exciting time for gay couples. Massachusetts’ highest court has said that gay people can no longer be denied the right to get married in that state. Very soon same-sex couples will be able to walk down the aisle and say ‘I do’ just like straight couples,” said James Esseks, Litigation Director of the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “Same-sex couples in Massachusetts will no longer have to worry about being prevented from visiting their partners in the hospital, kept out of conversations about emergency medical care or excluded from employee health insurance plans.”

“While getting married is a big step for any couple, federal laws and laws in most other states make tying the knot a little more complicated for lesbian and gay couples who want to get married in Massachusetts,” Esseks added. “Couples who have dreamed of getting married should take advantage of this historic opportunity. But this is one situation where it really pays to know what you’re getting into legally before taking the plunge.”

The ACLU guide provides same-sex couples with the information they need to plan a Massachusetts wedding, including information on how to get a license and medical requirements. The process is relatively simple, but there is a three-day waiting period and a blood test is required.

The guide also answers some of the questions that couples from outside of Massachusetts may have about whether other states will recognize their marriage. Vermont, which has a civil union system that provides the same legal benefits as marriage, seems sure to recognize Massachusetts marriages. California, which has a domestic partnership law that goes into effect in 2005, will likely treat couples with a marriage from Massachusetts the same as it treats domestic partners. But the federal government and 37 states have laws that bar recognition of same-sex marriages. However, businesses that recognize domestic partners seem a good bet to respect same-sex Massachusetts marriages as well.

The ACLU also gives couples practical advice on how to honestly answer questions on forms for jobs, credit, mortgages, insurance and medical treatment, as well as information about the tax and immigration consequences of a same-sex marriage. Couples with children and those who want to have children can learn how getting married in Massachusetts will (or won’t) affect their status as parents.

The guide also points out some of the downsides to getting married in Massachusetts. While it’s easy to get married, it won’t be so easy for most same-sex couples to get divorced. Like Vermont, Massachusetts has a one-year residency requirement for divorce. This puts couples who marry in Massachusetts but do not reside there in a tough position should they decide to split up.

To read the ACLU’s Q&A on same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, visit

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