BOSTON, Mar 30: Gay couples from American states that ban same-sex marriages cannot legally be wed in Massachusetts where such unions are legal, the state's highest court has ruled.
The ruling was made in response to a lawsuit filed by gay couples from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, which prohibit same-sex marriage.
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts made its ruling yesterday after Republican Gov. Mitt Romney had ordered local authorities to refuse applications to be wed in Massachusetts because they resided outside of the state.
Those couples sought to be married in Massachusetts after it became the first US state to recognize such marriages in 2004. The issue has produced a divisive, national debate over such unions.
Still, yesterday ruling left the door open for some plaintiffs in the case -- couples from New York and Rhode Island. The court ordered a lower-court judge to determine whether gay marriages are prohibited in those states because of cases pending.
New York state's highest court will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of banning same-sex marriage on May 31. In Rhode Island, lawmakers have introduced proposals to legalize same-sex unions.
Yesterday's decision does not affect the rights of Massachusetts residents, although opponents of gay marriages are seeking other avenues to stop such unions.
The case was focused on an obscure law passed in 1913 that bars out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their own states fail to recognize the union.
After Massachusetts legalized gay marriage, Romney ordered town clerks to invoke that statute. That forced town clerks to rebuff hundreds of marriage applications from gay and lesbian couples from out of state.