Rhode Island will be the 10th state in the US to legalize same-sex marriage.
The Rhode Island State Senate passed marriage equality legislation on Wednesday, with a vote of 26 to 12. According to the Providence Journal, it could be legal for same-sex couples to marry as early as August 1. The bills now move to the House Judiciary Committee, which is expected to take up the legislation nest Tuesday, with a floor vote coming as early as Thursday.
The Associated Press reports that Rhode Island, which is heavily Catholic, is the last state in New England to pass marriage equality legislation, and will be the 10th state in the US to legalize same-sex marriage. Governor Lincoln Chafee, who called Wednesday’s vote “historic,” told the AP “I’m very much looking forward to signing this.”
Once the legislation becomes law, same-sex civil unions, which were approved by lawmakers 2 years ago, would no longer be an option for couples, although the state would continue to recognize those civil unions that already exist. The legislation also states that, “religious institutions may set their own rules regarding who is eligible to marry within the faith,” and that, “no religious leader is obligated to officiate at any marriage ceremony and no religious group is required to provide facilities or services related to a gay marriage.” While it is already illegal to force a minister to marry anyone, the religious exemption helped to counter some of the arguments brought by opponents to the bills, and some supporters believe it helped to ease the bill’s passage this year.
Photo: AP File/Steven Senne