BOSTON — The Massachusetts Senate voted Tuesday to repeal a 1913 law that has been used to bar out-of-state gay couples from marrying in the state, a law that critics say was originally aimed at interracial marriage.
The law prohibits couples from obtaining marriage licenses if they can't legally wed in their home states.
The House is expected to vote on the repeal measure later this week. The Senate action came on a voice vote.
After Massachusetts became the first state to allow gay marriage in 2004, then-Gov. Mitt Romney ordered town clerks to enforce the then-little-known 1913 law and deny licenses to out-of-state couples.
Critics, including Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, the state's first black governor, said the statute carries a racist taint.
The law dates to a time when the majority of states still outlawed interracial marriage, and backers of repeal said the law was intended to smooth relations with those states. Massachusetts has allowed interracial marriage since 1843.
Another factor driving the repeal effort in Massachusetts was the recent embrace of same-sex marriage by California, which has no residency requirement for obtaining a marriage license.
Opponents of gay marriage said there is no evidence that the 1913 law has a racist heritage. They said keeping the law in place is key to preventing gay marriage from spreading to other states, many of which have passed laws or amended their constitutions to bar same-sex marriage.
An analysis by the state Office of Housing and Economic Development found that repealing the law would draw thousands of couples to Massachusetts, boosting the economy by $111-million, creating 330 jobs and generating $5-million in taxes and fees over three years.