Update: The bill has been signed into law.
Rhode Island is the tenth. The Rhode Island Assembly held a final, procedural vote to make it the tenth state to have legal same-sex marriages. Governor Lincoln Chafee plans to sign the bill later tonight.
The bill had already passed the House and Senate, but this was simply to make sure the bills were aligned. The first wedding will occur on 1 August when the law will take effect. Rhode Island was working on a bill off and on for the last twenty years.
Of the New England states, Rhode Island was the last to legalize same-sex marriage. Massachusetts was first. Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine followed suit one after the other with Maine legalizing same-sex marriage last year in a referendum that went before the voters.
The House passed the bill back in January and was proposed by House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is openly gay. Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed allowed a vote to occur despite her opposition to same-sex marriage.
The House voted 56 to 15 to finalize the bill and send it to Chafee.
Jenn Steinfeld of Marriage Equality Rhode Island was certainly celebrating this decision. She and her partner have been together for thirteen years. She stated “When we started, I knew every single person in our database. Now I go to events and I don’t know anybody. I think that’s wonderful. Seeing the tide change, seeing people who aren’t personally affected support us, it’s just been amazing.”
The state already had civil unions, which will no longer be available after the law goes into effect. Like Vermont, though, they will continue to recognize them.
Marriage equality is also being debated in Delaware and Minnesota, and Nevada is working on overturning their ban on same-sex marriage. Outside of New England, New York, Maryland, Iowa, and Washington State have same-sex marriage, as does Washington DC.