WASHINGTON The Rhode Island state House passed marriage equality legislation May 2 by a 56-15 vote, putting the Ocean State on track to become the tenth state in America where gay and lesbian couples can legally marry.
The legislation, which passed with bipartisan support, will be signed into law by Gov. Lincoln Chafee later today in a historic signing ceremony on the steps of the Rhode Island State House.
"The unprecedented momentum for marriage across the country continues, with Rhode Island becoming the first state of 2013 to say yes to marriage equality," said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin. "As the Supreme Court deliberates the fundamental right to marry the person you love, these historic and bipartisan victories keep mounting and prove the country is ready for marriage equality."
The House passed a modified version of legislation it had previously passed in January, which was then amended and passed by the Senate last week. Same-sex couples in Rhode Island can begin applying for marriage licenses August 1, 2013.
The nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization, HRC has been an integral financial and strategic player in winning marriage in each of the ten states and DC. In Rhode Island, HRC has provided significant financial investment and technical resources over many years to amplify the historic grassroots effort of the Rhode Islanders United for Marriage coalition.
The passage of marriage equality in Rhode Island comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down decisions on two marriage-related cases by the end of June. Hollingsworth v. Perry challenges the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, and United States v. Windsor, challenges the so-called Defense of Marriage Act.
From the ACLU:
PROVIDENCE, R.I.— Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee signed a law legalizing marriage for same-sex couples today. Chafee signed the bill shortly after its passage by the state legislature.
Rhode Island is now the tenth state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to recognize marriage for same-sex couples. It joins all other New England states — Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Maine — as well as Maryland, Washington, New York, and Iowa.
"Today is a great day for freedom and equality in Rhode Island," said Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island. "I am very proud to see our state join the rest of New England by passing this momentous law."
"This is a tremendous victory for the thousands of loving and committed couples and their families in Rhode Island who can now get the recognition and protection that only marriage can provide," said James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, "This was the result of years of hard work, and we will keep working with our partners to continue the fight to realize the freedom to marry for families across the country."