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Rhode Island
should recognize same-sex marriage, A.G. says

Rhode Island
should recognize same-sex marriage, A.G. says


Rhode Island attorney general Patrick Lynch (pictured) says his state should recognize same-sex marriages performed in neighboring Massachusetts.

Rhode Island should recognize state employees' same-sex marriages that are performed in neighboring Massachusetts and extend benefits to their partners, the state's attorney general said in an opinion released Wednesday.

Rhode Island prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and also extends benefits such as health insurance to domestic partners of state employees, Atty. Gen. Patrick Lynch noted in the opinion, requested by a state department. He said that with the absence of a law banning same-sex marriage, there's no strong reason to deny recognition to those marriages performed in Massachusetts, the only state where such unions are legal.

Lynch said the advisory opinion, requested by the state Board of Governors for Higher Education, was not binding and that the board or other agencies could disregard it. ''It's essentially guidance. It's my interpretation of the law,'' he said.

Lynch's letter, dated Tuesday and released Wednesday, was less equivocal. ''Rhode Island will recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed in Massachusetts as marriages in Rhode Island,'' he wrote.

The board intends to follow Lynch's opinion, spokesman Steve Maurano said Wednesday. ''I think his letter is very clear,'' Maurano said.

The board sought the opinion when several gay employees requested that their files be changed to reflect their marriages in Massachusetts, Maurano said. Michele Granda, a staff attorney for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said she expected most government agencies in Rhode Island will heed the legal advice from Lynch as the state's top lawyer.

Rhode Island is one of a few states that neither allow nor specifically ban same-sex unions. Several legislative attempts to ban or legalize same-sex marriages have failed there in recent years. A Massachusetts superior court justice decided last fall that Rhode Islanders are allowed to marry in that state, the only place in the country where same-sex marriage is allowed. Rhode Island courts, however, are in no way bound by that decision. (AP)

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