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Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has directed the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to register the same-sex marriages of 26 couples from outside the state whose licenses were not previously allowed to be included in state records by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The couples were married in 2004 in four Massachusetts towns and cities which refused to follow an order by Romney not to marry out-of-state same-sex couples. Patrick said Monday that he would support the repeal of a 1913 state statute, upheld by the Massachusetts Supreme Court last year, which prohibits couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their marriage would not be legal in their own state.

Earlier this year, Massachusetts lawmakers lobbied for a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage which would strictly define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, though it would leave existing Massachusetts same-sex marriages intact. While the recognition of the 26 marriage certificates does not actually change the legal status of the marriages, Patrick's decision has been heralded by the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) as a move toward treating same-sex couples equally to heterosexual couples. Patrick's order was criticized, however, by the Massachusetts Family Institute which said Patrick was "placing his personal preference above the law."

Massachusetts is currently the only US state to recognize same-sex marriage, after a November 2003 state high court ruling, and more than 8,000 same-sex couples have since been wed there.


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