BOSTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) -- A Rhode Island lesbian couple won approval from a judge to marry in Massachusetts, paving the way for the first legal wedding of a same-sex couple from outside the only U.S. state were gay marriage is allowed.
Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice Thomas E. Connolly ruled that the wedding of Wendy Becker and Mary Norton, of Providence, Rhode Island, could go forward because their home state has no laws specifically banning same-sex marriages.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a 2008 Republican presidential hopeful, has sought to prevent out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying in Massachusetts.
Conservative Christian groups have expressed concern that such marriages would turn the liberal New England state into America's gay-marriage capital, a Las Vegas for same-sex weddings.
But gay-rights advocates have campaigned to allow the practice since Massachusetts' highest court ruled in 2003 that it was unconstitutional to ban gay marriage. That ruling cleared the way for America's first same-sex marriages in May the following year.
Since then, more than 8,000 gay couples have wed.
Friday's case was focused on a law passed in 1913 that bars out-of-state couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their own states fail to recognize the union.
"After a very long engagement, we are thrilled to be able to marry and provide our family with the legal protection and social recognition we deserve," said Becker, who has been with Norton for 19 years. They have two children.
Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly, whose office had opposed Becker and Norton's bid to marry, said the state would not appeal the judge's ruling, leaving it to Rhode Island to clarify its stance on gay marriage.
"This has always been about respecting the laws of other states," Reilly said in a statement. "Rhode Island is now free to address the Superior Court's decision as it sees fit."
A spokesman for Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri had no immediate comment.
Romney has been an outspoken critic of gay marriage, which is a hot-button issue with conservative voters in the United States.
Massachusetts lawmakers are due to vote in November -- after the state and national elections -- on whether to amend the constitution to ban gay marriage.
Methinks this is gonna open a whole new can-o-worms as far as the religious right is concerned. Right about now, they've gotta be poopin' their drawers!