Massachusetts law about same-sex marriage

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases and web sources on same-sex marriage law

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." 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

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 sec. 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 ("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 12 (2013)

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

Federal cases

Obergefell v. Hodges , 576 US __ (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."

United States v. Windsor , 570 US 12 (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, 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.

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.

Federal Benefits for Same-Sex Partners , 2013
The Office of Personnel Management is now able to provide benefits to legally married same-sex spouses of federal employees and annuitants.

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, 2016
This online book is not specific to Massachusetts. Requires library card for access

Making it legal: A guide to same-sex marriage, domestic partnership and civil unions , Frederick C. Hertz with Emily Doskow, Nolo, 2016
This online book is not specific to Massachusetts. Requires library card for access

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

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.

DOMA Repeal and What it Means to Your Clients , MCLE, 2013.

Estate Planning for Same Sex Couples: The Changing Landscape , MCLE, 2014.

Modern Families: Effective Advocacy for Lesbian and Gay Clients , MCLE, 2013.

Information for 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.

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 update: February 16, 2017

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