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Romney cites gay-marriage tangles

Governor Mitt Romney pulled out a thick binder of memorandums and letters during a news conference yesterday, hoping to convince reporters and the public that the arrival of gay marriage in Massachusetts poses several complicated questions that, until now, never required answers in the United States.

Romney said a 1913 state law that forbids clerks from marrying out-of-state couples whose marriage would not be legal in their home jurisdiction creates all sorts of confusion.

Currently, 38 states have some type of gay marriage ban on the books, but each is worded differently, making it possible for samesex couples to fight such bans in court after marrying here.

The 1913 law, Romney said, ‘‘has some very problematic elements that we have to sort our way through,’’ including how clerks will try to define state residency.

‘‘I spent over $100,000 fighting for the right to say that I resided in Massachusetts,’’ said Romney, who lived in Utah before running for governor. ‘‘The Democratic Party spent at least that much trying to prove I didn’t. It’s not a very easy thing to prove very quickly.’’

He pointed to other questions pertaining to out-of-state couples: ‘‘What are the alimony rights, what are the property settlement rights, does the child have child protection and child support rights?We have to determine how to follow this law.’’

Mary Bonauto, a lawyer with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders who successfully fought to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, suggested a solution. ‘‘If he’s so concerned about problems, he can file an emergency bill to repeal that law,’’ she said of the 1913 statute.

‘‘Massachusetts has basically said discriminating against people of the same sex is unconstitutional,’’ she continued. ‘‘So why would we try so hard to uphold another state’s discriminatory law?’’

In addition to the questions about the 1913 statute, the governor also raised several more: Would couples who have gotten a civil union in Vermont, or entered into a certified domestic partnership in California, be able to get married in Massachusetts?

‘‘What happens if they come here and they want to be married to someone else?’’ he continued. ‘‘They were in a civil union in California, they move — one of them comes here alone and says, ‘I’d like to marry some other person.’ Is that now illegal? Is this bigamy? These are issues we’ve never faced.’’

Bonauto’s organization has warned couples in a civil union for months that they should not contemplate coming to Massachusetts to marry.

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