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Romney: gay outsiders can't marry in Mass.

Page 2 of 2 -- No other state has legalized gay marriage, and most have laws on the books specifically limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

The 1913 law has also been the subject of fierce debate in recent weeks, because it was enacted to prohibit the recognition of interracial marriages. Romney is dusting off the law to please social conservatives in the Republican party, said Mary Breslauer, a spokeswoman for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the legal group that brought the original lawsuit that led to the state's highest court legalizing gay marriage.

"This was a law that had one purpose -- to stop interracial marriage," Breslauer said. "Now Romney wants to resurrect it to build his national profile."

Romney has said publicly he fears the chaos that would ensue if Massachusetts legalizes marriage for gay couples, creating conflict with laws in other states. Breslauer said Romney is fostering confusion himself.

"If there is any confusion, the governor owns it, lock, stock, and barrel," Breslauer said.

Fehrnstrom defended Romney's interpretation of the 1913 law.

"The governor does not have the luxury of choosing which laws to enforce and which ones to ignore," Fehrnstrom said. "He took an oath to enforce all the laws of the Commonwealth."

Romney has tried unsuccessfully to block the decision by the Supreme Judicial Court in 2003 that gays must be allowed to wed from taking effect. Last month, after the Legislature gave initial approval to a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and create civil unions, Romney announced he wanted to seek a stay of the court's ruling, until after the amendment reaches voters in the 2006 state election.

But Reilly refused to represent Romney, saying the governor needed to accept that the court had spoken, and move on. Legislation giving Romney the authority to seek the stay was blocked by the state Senate.

Reilly said last month that in his opinion the 1913 law prevents out-of-state residents from getting married in Massachusetts if they are not eligible for marriage in their home state -- and 38 states have Defense of Marriage Act laws that define marriage solely as a heterosexual institution. Under Romney's interpretation, no resident of a state that does not explicitly allow gay couples to marry could enter into a same-sex marriage here. 

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