Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney Thursday asked Attorney General Thomas Reilly to "take whatever action he deems is appropriate" to remind clerks to abide by a 1913 law that prohibits couples from out of state to marry in Massachusetts if their marriage would be void in their home state. On Thursday, Romney sent the attorney general marriage applications from ten same-sex non-resident couples.
Reilly, whom the Boston Globe has mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor against the Republican Romney in 2006, declined to say what action he would take against the clerks. If they keep issuing the licenses, he could seek a court injunction ordering clerks to stop. If they persist, he could then charge them with contempt or with a criminal violation.
The attorney general said he could not imagine putting any clerks in jail. "We expect the clerks to respect the law," he said Friday.
Reilly said Friday he agreed with Romney's interpretation of the 1913 law, which the governor has said bars all out-of-state gay couples from marrying in Massachusetts. Reilly had previously said only residents of the 39 states with laws defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman would be forbidden from marrying in Massachusetts.
Clerks in Provincetown, Somerville, Springfield and Worcester have issued licenses to out-of-state gay couples as long as they sign a standard form stating that they know of no impediment to their marriage.
Springfield clerk William Metzger told the Associated Press Thursday he would stop issuing licenses if Reilly agreed with the governor's interpretation of the law.
Officials in Provincetown, Somerville and Worcester did not immediately return calls from the AP seeking comment on what action they will take in light the attorney general's letter.
However, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone said Thursday the city would continue to issue licenses to out-of-state couples.
"Same-sex couples will not be treated any differently in Somerville than heterosexual couples are treated," Curtatone said, according to an AP report.
The Massachusetts Senate voted this week to repeal the 1913 law, but the repeal still would need to be approved by the far more conservative House and then survive a certain veto by Romney.