STEP BY STEP GUIDE
So you want to get married in beautiful Massachusetts, the first state in America to guarantee same-sex marriage rights? Congratulations! Before you begin planning your big day, there are a few things you need to be aware of about marriage laws in Massachusetts. Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to everything you need to know about having your same-sex wedding in Massachusetts as well as some helpful hints and tips to keep in mind as you march toward your special day.
WHO CAN GET MARRIED IN MASSACHUSETTS?
Massachusetts does not have a residency requirement for marriage, so same-sex couples from anywhere in the country, or in the world for that matter, can legally marry in Massachusetts without having any intent whatsoever to reside in Massachusetts. Any couple in which both parties are over the age of 18-years-old, not legally married to anyone else, and not closely related by blood to their intended spouse can marry freely in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Massachusetts was the first state in the country to legalize same sex marriage on May 17, 2004, as a result of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health. Now the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 has been declared unconstitutional nationally allowing couples who are legally married in their own states to receive federal protections like Social Security, veteran’s benefits, health insurance and retirement savings.
To find out more visit: http://www.glaad.org/marriage/doma
WHAT DO I NEED TO GET MARRIED?
In order to get married in Massachusetts you will need to obtain a marriage license for which you will be required to provide the following information via a form:
- Date of Birth
- Address of residence
- Number of previous marriages and how the last marriage ended (death or divorce)
- Existence of present or former Civil Union or state-created Domestic Partnership, and dissolution status, if any
- Full name of parents (including middle and maiden names)
- Disclosure of whether applicants are related by blood or marriage
Additionally each applicant must swear before the clerk in the county in which they plan to marry that all information in the form is true and that no legal impediment exists to the marriage. Any false statement is punishable by a fine of up to $100.
Further, applicants must also complete a supplement to the Notice of Intention that is sent to the state Registry of Vital Records and Statistics. The Registry may make the information in this supplemental form available to state and federal agencies for purposes of child support enforcement or other purposes required by law.
Finally, city and town clerks charge a fee for processing the notice of intention of marriage and issuing the marriage license. This fee varies, however, so you should contact the clerk in the city or town where you plan to marry to confirm costs prior to applying for a marriage license.
APPLYING FOR A MARRIAGE LICENSE
There are three steps you need to keep in mind when applying for a marriage license in the state of Massachusetts:
Unless one party in the couple is incarcerated or a member of the military, both people who intend to marry must appear in person at a city or town hall in Massachusetts and complete the application form known as a Notice of Intention to Marry.
After a three-day waiting period which is required by law, go back to the city or town hall where you filed your application and retrieve your marriage license. This license is valid for 60 days starting from the day after you file the notice of intention.
Have a wedding ceremony within the state of Massachusetts that is officiated by someone who is authorized by the state to perform marriages. This official will then send the license back to the clerk and your marriage will be officially registered by the state.
OTHER HELPFUL TIPS
If you prefer to have your ceremony performed by a clergy member from outside the state of Massachusetts, he or she may only perform a ceremony in the state if they receive authorization from the State. The clergy person will need to contact the Secretary of the Commonwealth Public Records Division, One Ashburton Place, Room 1719, Boston, MA 02108, 617-727-2836. This can be done either before or after the wedding takes place, but authorization cannot be obtained earlier than four weeks before the wedding.
Massachusetts law does not require that witnesses be present for a civil ceremony. However, if a member of the clergy will be officiating over your ceremony, be sure to ask whether your religious doctrine, if any, requires witnesses.
Bring cash when you go to apply for a marriage license in Massachusetts. Though some clerks and courts take checks, others do not. So, to avoid delays, best to be prepared with cash. In addition, there is usually an extra fee charged if a couple wants a certified copy of their marriage certificate after the marriage has been solemnized and registered. That fee ranges from about $5 to $15 per copy.
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