The Massachusetts attorney general approved on Monday a referendum petition seeking to reinstate a 1913 law that prohibits same-sex couples from marrying in the state if their union is illegal in their home state.
Members from a self-identified pro-family group called Mass Resistance filed the referendum petition on Aug. 13. They are looking to overturn a law signed by Gov. Deval Patrick last month that repealed the 1913 statute.
"After a thorough review by our office, we have concluded that this referendum petition has met the technical requirements that govern such petitions," state Attorney General Martha Coakley said Monday in a statement.
"Our decision that this referendum meets the Constitutional requirements as to subject matter does not mean that it has our support, but simply that the constitutional requirements are met for the proponents of the referendum to obtain further signatures."
Proponents of the referendum have until Oct. 29 to gather the required 33,297 signatures to place the issue before voters on the November 2010 ballot.
"I don't think we're going to have much trouble getting the signatures," Brian Camenker, leader of Mass Resistance, told Belmont Citizen-Herald. "People have just had it up to here with this social experiment being pushed in their faces. The Legislature has been just so disconnected from the people in Massachusetts."
Last month, Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill repealing the 1913 law that blocked gay couples from outside the from state marrying in Massachusetts. Opponents say Massachusetts now could become the "Las Vegas of gay marriage," and they criticized lawmakers for infringing on other states' rights to define marriage.
The nearly century-old statute was originally used to bar interracial marriage. Although Massachusetts was among the first states to allow interracial marriage, the law prohibited interracial couples from marrying in the state if their marriages were not recognized in their home states.
Patrick, the state's first black governor and the father of a daughter who recently announced she's a lesbian, sided with critics who alleged the 1913 law carried racial undertones.
Pro-family groups, including Massachusetts Family Institute, however, have rejected claims the law was racially based, pointing to the 2006 State Supreme Court ruling that upheld the law as constitutional.
Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to recognize gay "marriage" following a May 2004 ruling made by the State High Court.
Then-Gov. Mitt Romney had invoked the 1913 law to prohibit city clerks from issuing marriage licenses to out-of-state homosexual couples.