Rhode Island has officially become the tenth state in the union to allow same-sex marriage as Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the bill into law.
According to Rhode Island’s WPRI, Chafee signed the bill into law on Thursday night at the south steps of the Rhode Island State House in Providence in full view of a large crowd that had gathered to watch. "Today we are making history," Chafee, who has backed same-sex marriage since he was a Republican U.S. senator, told the crowd. "I am proud to say that now, at long last, you are free to marry the person you love." Earlier in the day, the Rhode Island House officially passed the bill with a vote of 56-16 to approve same-sex marriage in the state.
"We're not going to be talking about same-sex marriage anymore -- we're going to be talking about marriage,” House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is openly gay, said at the Rhode Island capital. He then thanked Marcus LaFond, his longtime partner of 15 years, for supporting him through the bill’s passage.
On Wednesday, Chafee wrote an op-ed in the New York Times encouraging Rhode Island officials to vote for same-sex marriage. In the letter, he also explained why he personally supported the measure and planned to sign it into law.
"A historic realignment is happening all around us, as Americans from all walks of life realize that this is the right thing to do," Chafee wrote. "It is occurring both inside and outside of politics, through conversations at the office and over kitchen tables and at different speeds in different parts of the country. But once the people have spoken, politics should do its part to make the change efficient and constructive."
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The bill officially goes into effect on Aug. 1, making Rhode Island the tenth state (not including the District of Columbia) to recognize same-sex marriage in the U.S. The bill’s passage also means that all six New England states will support same-sex marriage.
The bill was originally passed in the Rhode Island House in January before being passed in the Senate in April. Because the Senate made several changes to the bill, it was passed once again by the House on Thursday and then signed by Chafee. Democratic Rhode Island Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed promised in 2011 to block a bill proposing same-sex marriage from even entering the floor, according to Think Progress. Weed was reportedly opposed to the bill on religious grounds.