BOSTON --Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has ordered officials to record the marriages of 26 out-of-state gay couples whose unions were blocked by his Republican predecessor from being registered in the state's vital records.
An aide said the Democratic governor wanted to reverse action taken by former Gov. Mitt Romney -- a Republican presidential candidate -- that the new administration sees as discriminatory, the Boston Globe reported Monday.
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.
In March 2006, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Romney and then state Attorney General Thomas Reilley could use a 1913 law to prohibit out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their home state explicitly prohibits same-sex marriages.
Gay couples from Rhode Island are the only ones allowed to wed in Massachusetts after a judge ruled last September that the state's laws do not explicitly ban same-sex marriages.
Still, two of the 26 couples whose marriage were not recorded by the Romney administration were from Rhode Island, according to the governor's office.
"It appears like the prior administration was politicizing a routine administrative function," Patrick's spokesman Kyle Sullivan said. "There was no legal basis for separating these certificates in the first place.
Eric Fernstrom, a spokesman for Romney, 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.
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.
Patrick's chief legal counsel Ben Clemens on Friday instructed the commissioner of the Department of Public Health John Auerbach to "bind and index" those marriages.
Mark Pearsall, 40, and Paul Trubey, 43, who own a dairy goat farm in Lebanon, Conn., said they were delighted by Patrick's decision. The couple had traveled to Worcester to marry in May 2004.