BOSTON – Massachusetts' governor ordered state officials to record the marriages of 26 out-of-state gay couples whose unions were blocked by his predecessor, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
"I think that the previous administration was using a gimmick to make what I feel was a discriminatory point," Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, said in announcing the move. "It's a simple gesture to include the information on the register. Keeping it out was the gimmick."
Registering the marriages in Massachusetts' vital records won't change the legal marriage status of the couples in their home states.
About 8,000 same-sex couples have wed in Massachusetts since the Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2003 that the state Constitution guarantees gays the right to marry. A few other states offer civil unions with similar rights for gay couples, but only Massachusetts allows gay marriage.
Last spring, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Romney could use a 1913 law to prohibit out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their home states explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage.
The 26 couples affected by Patrick's decision had obtained marriage licenses in four towns where clerks defied Romney's order not to issue marriage licenses to out-of-state gay couples.
Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said the former governor was right to refuse to record the marriages because Massachusetts law does not recognize marriages between same-sex couples from outside the state.
"It was Governor Romney's enforcement of this law that stopped gay marriage from being visited on every other state in the country," Fehrnstrom told The Boston Globe. "Now that Governor Romney is out of office, we are seeing an erosion of the previously strong defense of traditional marriage coming out of the executive branch."
State Department of Public Health Commission John Auerbach said Monday he will move quickly to act on Patrick's request. He called it "fitting and welcome that our state will now treat the recording of all marriage certificates equally."