Gay couples from across the United States are one step closer to a Massachusetts wedding.
The state Senate voted Tuesday to repeal a 1913 law used to bar out-of-state gay couples from marrying in the state. The law, driven in part by California's recent embrace of same-sex marriage, prohibits couples from obtaining marriage licenses if they couldn't legally wed in their home states.
The House is expected to vote on the repeal later this week. Gov. Deval Patrick, whose 18-year-old daughter announced publicly last month that she is a lesbian, would have 10 days to sign it.
Michael Thorne, 55, and James Theberge, 50, say they're hoping for an August wedding in Provincetown.
The Maine couple have been together for 25 years, have two children, and wanted to get married four years ago after Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriages. They were blocked when then-Gov. Mitt Romney ordered town clerks to enforce the little-known law and deny licenses to out-of-state gay couples.
"If Gov. Patrick signs the bill, we'll be at the Provincetown City Hall" in August, said Thorne, who called Maine's domestic partnership law a poor substitute.
Patrick, a Democrat and the state's first black governor, said the 95-year-old statute also carries a racist taint.
The law dates to a time when the majority of states outlawed interracial marriages. Critics said the law was designed to smooth relations with those states. Massachusetts has allowed interracial marriages since 1843.
Opponents of gay marriage said the 1913 statute is needed to ensure Massachusetts respects the marriage laws of other states. They said it will also help prevent same-sex couples from entering into marriages and then returning to states that have already passed laws or amended their constitutions to bar gay marriages.
"The Massachusetts Senate has no right to infringe on the internal issues of how other states define marriage, but that's exactly what they voted today to do," said Kris Mineau of Massachusetts Family Institute.
The law was rarely enforced until Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2003 that the state could no longer bar gay couples from marrying. Romney, then eyeing a run for president, ordered city and town clerks to enforce the statute, although some town clerks balked.
Eight gay couples from surrounding states challenged the 1913 law in court, and in 2006 the same court that allowed gay marriage refused to toss out the law.
An analysis released by Massachusetts' Office of Housing and Economic Development found repealing the law would draw thousands of couples to the state, boosting the economy by $111 million, creating 330 jobs and generating $5 million in taxes and fees over three years.
Another factor driving the repeal effort in Massachusetts is California's recent embrace of same-sex marriage. California has no residency requirement to obtain a marriage license.