Thursday, May 17, 2007

New Yorkers Get Taste of Marriage Equality

Yesterday, on the eve of the third anniversary of marriage equality here in Massachusetts, the New York Times reported that those rights had been extended to a small group of New York couples. Anyone from New York who was married in a small window of time between when same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts and a New York court ruling forbidding those marriages is legally married as far as Massachusetts is concerned. After that New York ruling banned same-sex marriage, our infamous "1913 law" here in Massachusetts -- which prevents the state from recognizing marriages that would not be legal in the home state of the couple to be wed -- kicked in and Empire State couples were legally excluded. Here's how the Times described the process:

The New York decision [against marriage equality] had been issued on July 6, 2006, more than two years after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. What about those New York couples who had married in Massachusetts before July 2006?

"Those couples should be able to be legally married," said Michele Granda, a lawyer for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, who represented the plaintiffs.

It turned out that the Massachusetts attorney general's office, the defendant in the lawsuit, did not object to that interpretation. In an interview Tuesday, Attorney General Martha Coakley said, "We agreed that for the period between May 17, 2004, when same-sex marriage was legalized, to July 6, 2006, marriages of couples from New York are fully valid and did not and do not violate our general laws."
Coakley was also quoted in today's Boston Globe as saying "It's an appropriate resolution, and I think it affects a relatively small and discrete number of people." I can't help but wonder whether the former Attorney General, Tom Reilly, would have felt the same way given his vigorous defense of the 1913 law. While he eventually came around and supported marriage equality in Massachusetts, he was against exporting it. Since New York has said it will not challenge the status of the couples, I'd like to think that Reilly would have done the same as his successor.

Speaking of Martha Coakley, the Boston Phoenix's David Bernstein has a long profile of her in this week's issue.