Massachusetts law about same-sex marriage

A compilation of laws, cases, and web sources on gay marriage in Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

Massachusetts case legalizing marriage


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." 

Massachusetts laws

18 or older to marry

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 cases

Adoption of a Minor, 471 Mass 373 (2015)
“[L]awful parentage, and its associated rights and responsibilities, is conferred by statute on the consenting spouse of a married couple whose child is conceived by one woman of the marriage, through the use of assisted reproductive technology consented to by both women.  See G.L. c. 46 § 4B.”

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)
The court found that 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 (section 1 - "full faith and credit clause"; section 2, clause 1 - “comity clause”)

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 12 (2013).

28 USC § 1738C Certain acts, records, proceedings and the effect thereof

Respect For Marriage Act, P.L. 117-228 (2022)
Signed into law by President Biden on December 13, 2022, this act "provides statutory authority for same-sex and interracial marriages."

Federal cases

Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 644 (June 26, 2015)
Same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. "[T]he right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry."

"The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation."

United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 744 (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."

Web sources

Adoption questions and answers, GLAD, June 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, June 2013.
This fact sheet series “details many of the ways federal agencies accord legal respect to married same-sex couples.”

Clarification of the definition of son or daughter: Administrator's Interpretation No.2010-3, US Department of Labor, June 2010
Expands and clarifies definitions as they apply to an employee standing “in loco parentis” to a child.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization: What LGBTQ+ families need to know, GLAD, updated June 2022. 

Federal benefits for same-sex partners, 2013.
The Office of Personnel Management provides benefits to legally married same-sex spouses of federal employees and annuitants.

Housing and mortgages for gay and lesbian couples, Mortgage
"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), July 2015.
"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.

Overview of legal issues for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, GLAD, September 2018.
Provides information on a variety of legal issues, including marriage and family issues.

Same sex marriage and immigration, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, June 2013.
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. Includes lots of helpful information about social security benefits for same-sex couples.

Your rights in Massachusetts, GLAD.
The section on family law covers marriage of same-sex couples, adoption, custody and visitation, domestic violence, and other legal protections for same-sex couples.

Print sources

DOMA repeal and what it means to your clients, MCLE, 2013.

Estate planning for same sex couples: the changing landscape, MCLE, 2014.

A legal guide for lesbian and gay couples by Frederick Hertz, Nolo, 2020.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family law, Thomson Reuters, Annual. Chapter 8: Marriage and other relationship protections.  Provides a history of cases litigated seeking marriage for same sex couples.

LexisNexis practice guide: Massachusetts family law, LexisNexis, Annual. Chapter 1, Part IV: Discussing same sex marriages in Massachusetts.  

Making it legal : a guide to same-sex marriage, domestic partnerships & civil unions by Frederick C. Hertz, Nolo, 2018.

Modern families: effective advocacy for lesbian and gay clients, MCLE, 2013.

Information for residents of other states marrying in Massachusetts

St.2008, c.216 repealed the so-called "1913 laws" (MGL c.207, §§ 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.

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.


Last updated: December 29, 2022

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