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Massachusetts Law About Same-Sex Marriage

The Mass. Case

Goodridge v. Mass. Department of Public Health, 440 Mass. 309 (2003). Massachusetts' "gay marriage" decision. "Barred access to the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage, a person who enters into an intimate, exclusive union with another of the same sex is arbitrarily deprived of membership in one of our community's most rewarding and cherished institutions. That exclusion is incompatible with the constitutional principles of respect for individual autonomy and equality under law."

For briefs and other pleadings, see Goodridge v. Department of Public Health Case Documents, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD).

Massachusetts Laws

Massachusetts Constitution

MGL c.207. Marriage. The same laws and procedures that govern traditional marriage also apply to same-sex marriages. There are no special procedures for a same-sex marriage.

Selected Massachusetts Case Law

Della Corte v. Ramirez, 81 Mass. App. Ct. 906 (2012). A child born of a same-sex marriage is the legitimate child of both people. "As a result, it follows that when there is a marriage between same-sex couples, the need for that second-parent adoption to, at the very least, confer legal parentage on the nonbiological parent is eliminated when the child is born of the marriage."

Elia-Warnken v. Elia, 463 Mass. 29 (2012). " a Vermont civil union is the functional equivalent of a marriage." Therefore, " a Vermont civil union must be dissolved prior to either party entering into marriage with a third person in the Commonwealth."

Hunter v. Rose, 463 Mass. 488 (2012). "a registered same-sex domestic partnership entered into in California was the equivalent of marriage in the Commonwealth."

Federal Laws

U.S. Constitution, Article IV ("full faith and credit").

1 USC 7 Defense of Marriage Act. Definition of "Marriage" and "Spouse." Held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor, 570 US __ (2013).

28 USC 1738C. Certain Acts, Records, Proceedings and the Effect Thereof.

Federal Cases

Massachusetts v. US Dept. of Health and Human Services (consolidated with Gill v. Office of Personnel Management), 682 F.3d. 1 (2012). Unanimous court ruled that Section 3 of the "Defense of Marriage Act," 1 USC 7, is unconstitutional, but stayed the decision pending appeal. See also, lower court decision in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, 699 F.Supp.2d 344 (2010).

United States v. Windsor, 570 US __ (2013). US Supreme Court held "DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution."

Other Web Sources

Adoption Questions and Answers, GLAD, April 2014. Information for LGBT individuals and couples on "bringing unrelated children into the family or ... securing the legal relationship of a second parent to the child of his or her partner or spouse.

After DOMA: Guide for Same-Sex Couples, GLAD. A series of fact sheets for couples on a variety of issues affected by the US v. Windsor decision, including federal taxes, immigration, medicaid, social security, military spousal benefits and many more.

Clarification of the Definition of "son or daughter" in Family and Medical Leave Act: Adminstrator's Interpretation No.2010-3, US Department of Labor, June 2010. "The administrator interpretation issued by Nancy J. Leppink, deputy administrator of the department's Wage and Hour Division, clarifies that these rights, which provide work-family balance, extend to the various parenting relationships that exist in today's world. This action is a victory for many non-traditional families, including families in the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community, who often in the past have been denied leave to care for their loved ones. "

Federal Benefits for Same-Sex Partners, The Office of Personnel Management is now able to provide benefits to legally married same-sex spouses of federal employees and annuitants.

Foreign Affairs Manual, v.7, Appendix C, sec. 1359: Change of Name by Operation of Law, Including Same Sex Marriage and Civil Union, and Name Change for Use in Passports, as amended June 15, 2009. Effective immediately, an individual who has changed his name as a result of a same-sex marriage may have a passport issued in his new name. See How to Change the Last Name on Your Passport Using Your Marriage Certificate.

Housing and Mortgages for Gay and Lesbian Couples, Mortgage Loan.com. "This guide will help to explain the different approaches that same-sex couples can take to getting a mortgage, establishing ownership of a home, and creating legal documents that anticipate any legal or property-ownership issues that might occur if the couple breaks up or one partner dies."

How to Get Married in Massachusetts, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), January 2013. "Sets forth the details for the process for marrying in Massachusetts – who can marry, how you get a license, what you need to bring with you, the waiting period, and who can perform the ceremony." GREAT resource for couples from any state.

A Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples, Nolo, 2012. This online book is not specific to Massachusetts. Requires Library Card for access.

Making it legal : a guide to same-sex marriage, domestic partnership & civil unions / Frederick C. Hertz with Emily Doskow, Nolo, 2011. A brief history of the same-sex marriage movement -- Same-sex marriage around the world and at home -- What it means to be married -- The real life consequences of legal discrimination -- Marriage material -- Ten steps to a decision -- To prenup or not to prenup? -- Avoiding the ugly gay divorce -- Estate planning for same-sex couples -- Legal change in action: how change happens and what to expect. Requires Library Card for access.

Marriage Tips and Traps, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), June, 2012. Covers critical issues concerning finances, benefits, adoption, international relationships and more.

Massachusetts Tax Issues Associated with Same-Sex Marriages, Technical Information Release 04-17, Mass. Dept. of Revenue.

Medicare, All beneficiaries in private Medicare plans now have access to equal coverage when it comes to care in a nursing home where their spouse lives.

Same Sex Marriage and Immigration, US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Explains how to sponsor a same-sex spouse in immigration.

Social Security, The Social Security Administration now recognizes same-sex marriages for purposes of determining benefits.  

Taxes, 8/29/13: The Dept. of Justice and Internal Revenue Service ruled that "same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage."

Uniformed Servicemembers and Civilian Employees, Benefits, The Department of Defense will extend benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members and civilian employees.

U. S. Visas for Same-Sex Spouses, U. S. embassies and consulates will process visa applications for same-sex marriages the same as for opposite gender spouses.

Print Sources

Drafting Family Law Agreements, MCLE, 2009.

Estate Planning for Subsequent Marriages and Same-Sex Marriages, MCLE, 2007.

Making it Legal: A Guide to Same-Sex Marriage, Domestic Partnership and Civil Unions, Nolo, 2011.

Information For Residents of Other States

Residents of Other States Marrying in Massachusetts

St.2008, c.216 was enacted on July 31, 2008, repealing the so-called "1913 laws" (MGL c.207, s.11, 12, 13, and 50) which prohibited most same-sex couples from other states from marrying in Massachusetts. Residents of other states may now follow the same procedures as Massachusetts residents for marrying. See Mass. Law About Marriage for more information and forms.

Legal Issues For Non-Massachusetts Same-Sex Couples Who Married In Massachusetts Prior To July 31, 2008, GLAD, 2011. Explains in detail which couples have valid marriage, which have void marriages, and which have voidable marriages, with information on what you may need to do to stay married or to end your marriage.

Memo to Clerks Regarding Impediments to Marriage, Registry of Vital Statistics, 2012. Explains process for people who have a valid civil union from another state.

Residents of Other States Marrying in their Home State

The changing landscape of same-sex marriage, Washington Post. Map of current status of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, with links to information and news articles for each state. Also includes graphs of public opinion over time.

Map: Which States Allow Gay Marriage?, Mother Jones. Includes two maps. The first shows the current status of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, with links to information for each state. The second is a time-lapse map, showing changing laws from 2000-2014.