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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Boston lawmakers waive gender and sexual orientation requirement on marriage licenses

Colin Tsuboi
A person walks by Boston City Hall. Photo by Colin Tsuboi / Mass Media Staff.

Boston lawmakers have recently waived the gender and sexual orientation requirement for marriage licenses in the city. The change was implemented at the beginning of September and is part of Mayor Michelle Wu’s plan for an inclusive city that serves all residents [1].

According to the City of Boston’s website, this change made by the city is the first one based on new gender-aware guidelines and the collection of gender identity data for Boston through government documentation. The Department of Innovation and Technology alongside the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ+ Advancement and Boston’s Registry Department were the leading forces behind the change [1].

Those who are already in possession of a marriage license and wish to have their sexual orientation or gender identity changed are encouraged to call Boston’s City Registry to request a new copy [1].

Mayor Wu spoke on behalf of the city of Boston regarding the new change for Boston’s marriage license, stating, “Our fundamental charge in public service is ensuring that our services and opportunities reach everyone, and that starts with affirming and supporting constituents of all identities. Boston must continue to work to dismantle the historic inequities and injustices that persist. This update to Boston marriage licenses is a huge step in building a City that is truly inclusive, and I’m excited to see how these critical changes for accessibility at City Hall serve Bostonians” [1].

City Registrar Paul Chong reports roughly 5,000 residents apply for marriage licenses in Boston each year, with the first gender-free certificate going to Kimberly Rhoten, who identifies as nonbinary. According to WBUR, Rhoten is the director of policy and strategic initiatives in the mayor’s office of returning citizens [2].

“A marriage certificate is a symbol of love and commitment. But unfortunately, for people like me, their certificate’s outdated and narrow gender markers were a glaring reminder that our city still had a long way to go acknowledging our existence,” said Rhoten to WBUR. “They were a subtle, yet powerful, message that our love, our relationships and our identities were somehow less valid and less recognized underneath the eyes of the law and the city of Boston” [2].

Receiving such gender data like sexual orientation and gender identity preferences is huge for Boston. Workers in the city are able to follow a better guideline on when it’s appropriate to ask about one’s gender identity by now limiting these questions to “absolutely necessary” scenarios such as state or federal requirements [2].

Gathering gender information will also be significantly easier for Boston officials as well. Collecting this data can allow lawmakers and other city workers to approach the subject of pronouns and chosen names in a more respectful manner [2].

Boston’s Chief Digital Officer Julia Gutierrez expressed her thoughts on the new marriage license guidelines to WBUR, supporting the decision as a great opportunity for learning dynamic changes and feedback for other guidelines. “Just as the language for talking about gender dynamic changes over time, we expect to regularly review and continuously improve the standards and guidelines in response to the feedback that we receive” [2].

The American Marriage Ministries clarified that this change will not affect other aspects of the marriage license application for the city of Boston. Applicants who wish to apply for a marriage license still have to be at least 18 years or older to get married in Massachusetts. Marriage licenses are also only valid 60 days from the day applicants apply for their license [3].


  1. City of Boston  https://www.boston.gov/news/city-boston-announces-gender-equity-updates-marriage-licenses#:~:text=City%20of%20Boston%20Announces%20Gender%20Equity%20Updates%20to%20Marriage%20Licenses,-City%20announces%20new&text=Building%20on%20Mayor%20Wu’s%20vision,gender%20identification%20on%20the%20licenses.
  2. WBUR https://www.wbur.org/news/2023/08/29/boston-marriage-certificate-sex-gender-identification

3. American Marriage Ministries https://theamm.org/articles/1841-city-of-boston-removes-gender-markers-from-marriage-licenses

About the Contributors
Samantha Beady, News Editor
Colin Tsuboi, Photographer