BOSTON (AP) – A gay marriage debate that lasted the better part of a decade came to a remarkably civil conclusion on Tuesday, as the House joined the Senate in voting to repeal a law that had blocked out-of-state gays from marrying in Massachusetts – the first state to legalize those unions.

After 40 minutes of speeches that politely ping-ponged between four opponents of the ban and three supporters of it, the House voted 119-36 to repeal a 1913 law that blocked couples from marrying here if the unions would not be legal in their own states.

The Senate voted earlier this month to repeal the ban, and Gov. Deval Patrick – whose own daughter recently revealed she is a lesbian – promised to sign the repeal into law after it passed a final procedural vote in each chamber.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court already ruled in November 2003 that the constitution granted gay state residents the right to marry, and those ceremonies began in May 2004.

“Sometimes what you hope and pray for actually happens, which is kind of overwhelming,” Michael Thorne, 55, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, said after telling his 6-year-old son his parents could soon get married. Thorne and his partner of 25 years, James Theberge, have an Aug. 18 wedding planned in Provincetown.

While supporters spoke of the social justice in a repeal, the vote also had a pocketbook effect.

A recent government study found Massachusetts could benefit from the sales tax and other proceeds generated by gays coming to marry in the state. The analysis took on urgency after California recently approved gay marriage – with no residency requirement.

“I’m really proud of our state Legislature. We’ve ridded our state laws of the last vestiges of our legal discrimination against same-sex couples, and we once again lead the country for equality,” said Marc Solomon of the pro-gay rights group MassEquality.

As for the economic consequences, he said: “Very practically, I have friends who will come to Massachusetts to get married instead of going to California, especially from New York state, where Gov. (David) Paterson has said these marriages will be recognized.”

Opponents recoiled at the outcome.

“With that protective barrier removed, out-of-state same-sex couples who marry here will sue to seek recognition in their home states, creating a flood of costly lawsuits and further eroding the people’s right to define marriage democratically,” the Massachusetts Family Institute said in a statment. “It also puts so-called “gay divorce’ in question as same-sex couples face a legal limbo when seeking to dissolve their Massachusetts marriages in their home states which have not recognized them.”

The public debate began in 2001, when a gay couple sued the Massachusetts Department of Health, the agency ultimately charged with administering marriage licenses, seeking “the freedom to join in civil marriage with the person (you) love.”

In 2003, the SJC voted 4-3 in favor of the plaintiffs in the so-called “Goodridge” case. Justices gave the state six months to begin allowing gay marriages.

Former Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, who was governor of Massachusetts at the time of the ruling, instructed city and town clerks to enforce the long-dormant law once gay marriages started. Opponents also tried to amend the constitution to ban gay marriages, but the Legislature blocked it from appealing on the ballot.

Romney argued that repealing the ban would turn the state into the “Las Vegas of gay marriage.” He had no comment on the Legislature’s action, a spokesman said.

Patrick, who succeed Romney as the state’s first Democratic governor in 16 years, as well as its first black chief executive, argued the ban carried racial undertones from a time when interracial marriage was discouraged or illegal in some states.

In the House debate, Rep. Byron Rushing, D-Boston, said continuing to ban out-of-state gays from marrying was unfair in light of the Supreme Judicial Court ruling.

“This is question of fairness, and it is a question of equity,” Rushing said.

Massachusetts allows first-cousins to marry, but half the states in the country do not. Rushing said some first-cousins from out of Massachusetts had undoubtedly been allowed to marry here since 1913.

“The fairness in this question is that we have allowed people to marry in Massachusetts who could not legally marry in their own state for decades, and now we want to change our way we are applying a bit of law we have never enforced. That, I think, is unfair,” Rushing said.

Opponents argued repealing the ban amounted to meddling in the affairs of other states and broke with state law and customs that dictated respecting others’ marriage rules.

Rep. John Lepper, R-Attleboro, said sanctioning a marriage that is illegal elsewhere would “create a relationship and then set it adrift to settle in a disapproving state.”

He spoke of a gay couple from Rhode Island who married in Massachusetts and now are seeking a divorce, saying the case was typical of the “legal nightmare” a repeal would create.

“They can’t divorce in Rhode Island because the law does not recognize (the marriage),” Lepper said. “They can’t divorce in Massachusetts because there is a one-year residency requirement for filing.”

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