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FACT FILE: Gay marriage in Massachusetts

5/17/2004 - 6:00 AM PST

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Application

Eligible couples must submit an application for a license, along with results of a blood test and a fee, to any of the 351 city or town clerk's offices in Massachusetts. Fees, set locally, generally run from $10 to $30.

Each applicant must swear before a clerk that all information in the form is true and no legal impediment exists to the marriage.

Eligibility

A 91-year-old state law says nonresidents may not marry in Massachusetts if their marriage would be "void" in their home states. Citing that law, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has instructed clerks to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples from other states who do not plan to move to Massachusetts.

Some clerks have questioned Romney’s stance, noting the 1913 law had not been enforced for years for heterosexual couples. Clerks in Provincetown, on Cape Cod, and Worcester, in central Massachusetts, are among those who have said they will disregard Romney's instructions and issue licenses to out-of-state couples.

For purposes of verifying residency, some clerks may rely only on a sworn statement while others may require documentation.

It is unclear whether criminal penalties would be imposed on officials who do not follow Romney's instructions.

Three-day waiting period

Once an application is filed, couples must wait three days before marrying, although they may ask a court to waive the waiting period in order to marry sooner. The fee for such a waiver depends on the court but generally runs from $65 to $195. Judges typically grant the waiver.

Ceremony

Once the three-day waiting period has passed or a waiver is obtained, a couple must return to the city or town clerk to receive the license. The license is valid for 60 days. During that time, it must be solemnized by an official -- such as a justice of the peace -- or a member of the clergy or another person authorized to perform marriages.

Typically, a justice of the peace will charge $75 to $125 to perform the ceremony. One Christian denomination that recognizes gay unions, the Unitarian Universalist Association, offers free wedding ceremonies to congregation members. Nonmembers are charged $150 to $500 for a minister's services, with $350 about average. Church rental can be as low as $200.

When the marriage ceremony is complete, the officiator must sign the license and send it back to the city or town where the couple received it. The clerk registers the union and the couple may receive an official marriage certificate.

Source: Reuters

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Keywords

Gay, Homosexual, Marriage, Catholic

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