And now Rhode Island. A marriage equality bill has passed in the Rhode Island Senate. The bill, which was passed the House in January, passed 26 to 12 making Rhode Island the tenth state to have same-sex marriage.
Delaware may become the eleventh as they have just started working on their bill. Minnesota is also working on a marriage equality bill, and Nevada is working on repealing their ban on same-sex marriage.
Governor Lincoln Chafee has pledged to sign the bill into law after a final procedural vote occurs sometime next week.
State Senator Donna Nesselbush of Pawtucket stated that “This is a historic piece of legislation, one that literally has been in the works for more than 20 years. This is something that undoes centuries of discrimination against gay and lesbian couples.”
The bill passed despite opposition from Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, who opposes same-sex marriage; however, she had also pledge to not stand in the way of it coming to a vote. The bill’s likelihood of passage improved after the entire Republican caucus threw its support behind it.
The bill had support from Governor Chafee, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, organized labor, various religious leaders, business owners, and more.
The law goes into effect as early as 1 August. At that point, civil unions will no longer be available. Civil unions were legalized roughly two years ago, but they were highly unpopular because Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut had same-sex marriage. Maine legalized same-sex marriage last November.
The Catholic Church was the strongest opponent of marriage equality with Bishop Thomas Tobin engaging in fear mongering and calling it “immoral and unnecessary.” The bill, though, does not force any religious institutions to provide such marriages.
Religious figures are already exempt from being forced to marry anyone that they do not want to, but this just tends to be put in so that no one can complain.