Sunday, July 27, 2008

Massachusetts Legislature Moves Toward Equality for Gay and Lesbian Couples

Despite the fact that the Massachusetts Senate recently passed Senate Bill 800, which would repeal the 1913 law that prohibits non-resident gay and lesbian couples from marrying in Massachusetts unless their home state also would recognize their marriage, the House has yet to take up and pass the bill, and has until July 31 before its current session ends. See the New England Blade's most recent article from Thursday: House Ends Week Still Silent on 1913 Law; Bill Sent for Third Reading; Session Ends Next Week, and for more background the earlier article of Wednesday, July 23 (quoted below). Pressure from the advocates for marriage equality may overcome some political resistance in the House. Hopefully the advocates will prevail, and then the measure will go to the desk of Governor Patrick, who is expected to sign it into law.

In other, more decidedly positive news, also from the New England Blade: "The Massachusetts State Senate on Wednesday, July 23, by voice vote, passed the MassHealth Equality Bill H.B. 4107, which would grant married same-sex couples in Massachusetts the same access to Medicaid benefits as heterosexual couples. Currently, federal Defense of Marriage Act regulations prohibit same-sex couples legally married in Massachusetts from being treated as each other’s spouses for the purposes of federal benefits programs, including Medicaid, which is uniquely funded by both state and federal dollars. The bill passed in the House last week. Once the House and Senate agree on slight differences in language, the bill will go to Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk, who is expected to sign it into law...."


The House of Representatives, by the New England Blade print deadline, had not taken up Senate Bill 800, which, if passed, would repeal the 1913 law thatprohibits non-resident same-sex couples from getting married in Massachusetts unless their home state would recognize their marriage.

But despite the looming end of the current legislative session — July 31 — House Speaker Sal DiMasi remains committed to bringing the issue before the full House soon, said his spokesperson, David Guarino.

“It is something we hope to bring up in the next few days,” David Guarino, spokesperson for DiMasi, said on Tuesday. “Speaker DiMasi is a strong supporter of it and hopeful to get this done this session.”

Guarino did not return a call made to him on Wednesday.

MassEquality said on Wednesday that“it’s still very likely that it will come up before the end of the session,” and asked its membership to contact their respective legislators. The Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Caucus has also urged its membership to contact their legislators.

“The Senate acted quickly and decisively but the House may be a more difficult battle,” says the Caucus in an e-mail to its membership on Tuesday. “Our opponents have generated thousands of calls and e-mails to Representatives to stop our Repeal lobbying, and they’re having an impact. Now is the time to act. We need you to e-mail your state Representative and urge her/him to support the repeal.”

The State House News reported on Monday that some House members are concerned about taking up the repeal of the 1913 law during an election year, which has left doors open, says MassResistance, for opponents of the bill to talk with representatives.

“Last Thursday we sent people to personally visit every House office at the State House. They sat down with staff members and made them read our handouts explaining the facts about this issue,” said MassResistance in its blog( “They got both good and bad responses. Some were very supportive, some quite hostile. But we got the message across.”

For information about Massachusetts divorce and family law, see the divorce and family law page of my law firm website.

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