Rhode Island Becomes 10th State to Legalize Gay Marriage

STORY BY Grace Jung

Published: May 7, 2013

The fight for marriage equality claimed another huge victory on Thursday, as Rhode Island became the 10th state to legalize gay marriage on a 56-15 vote. Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the bill on Thursday evening, prompting hundreds of supporters gathered outside the Statehouse to burst into cheers and song. Afterwards, Gov. Chafee told the crowd, “Now, at long last, you are free to marry the person that you love.”

The bill was passed by the House back in January, but was expected to meet greater opposition in the Senate. Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed allowed the vote for the bill, despite her opposition to gay marriage. Rhode Island now joins nine other states, as well as the District of Columbia, in allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry with equal rights and protection. Civil unions will no longer be offered once the law takes effect, although the state will continue to recognize existing ones.

It was a gloriously, hard-earned win for the LGBTQA & ally community of Rhode Island. The effort to legalize gay marriage in their state spanned over nearly two decades, as advocates turned to grassroots campaigns, community volunteers, and religious leaders to garner support for marriage equality. On Wednesday, Gov. Chafee made it clear in a New York Times op-ed that he would sign the bill immediately if it passed, citing economic reasons above issues of morality. He stated, “The talented workers who are driving the new economy — young, educated and forward-looking — want to live in a place that reflects their values. They want diversity, not simply out of a sense of justice, but because diversity makes life more fun. Why would any state turn away the people who are most likely to create the economies of the 21st century?”

The marriage equality movement is now looking to Delaware as the next state to potentially approve same-sex marriage. However, opposition is refusing to recognize Rhode Island’s victory as anything significant. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown responded to the legalization by stating, “I don't know that I would say Rhode Island is a trend. Again, we're talking about states that are not necessarily indicative of the rest of the country. These are pretty deep-blue, liberal states we're talking about.”

But Brown may be underestimating the marriage equality movement. With 53% of Americans now supporting gay marriage, it looks like this fight may just be beginning.

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