Rhode Island Senate Passes Marriage Equality Bill

By Michelle Garcia

Originally published on Advocate.com April 24 2013 6:32 PM ET

The Rhode Island Senate approved legislation Wednesday to establish full marriage equality for same-sex couples with a 26-12 vote.

The bill will go back to the House for a procedural vote to accept the Senate's version; the House approved a different version of the legislation in January. The bill must then be signed into law by Gov. Lincoln Chaffee, who has expressed his support for marriage equality legislation.

According to the Associated Press, the first legal weddings for same-sex couples may take place as early as August 1.

Rhode Island was the last state in New England to establish marriage equality, but was able to do so with Republican support. It will be the 10th state in the U.S., in addition to Washington, D.C., to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

“New England is now complete," said Marc Solomon, the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry. "Through court rulings, legislative action, and wins at the ballot, loving and committed couples from Bangor to Burlington, Providence to Portland, and Cambridge to Concord will soon be able to join in the freedom to marry."

Victory Fund president and CEO Chuck Wolfe said the efforts to institute this law were thanks to the help of the state's four openly gay lawmakers, House speaker Gordon D. Fox, Rep. Frank Ferri, Rep. Deb Ruggiero, and Sen. Donna Nesselbush.

“We are grateful to Rhode Island’s gay and lesbian legislators for standing up for themselves, for their partners, for their families and for every young person across the state who dreams of one day marrying the person they love,” Wolfe said in a statement Wednesday. “They spoke passionately and authentically about the personal impact of this struggle, and that has made a tremendous difference. Today is a day to celebrate their hard work, and that of their colleagues and all the groups in the Rhode Islanders United for Marriage coalition who made this day possible.”