Today, Rhode Island passed a historic bill legalizing the freedom to marry. This makes Rhode Island the 10th state in the nation to enact marriage equality, along with the District of Columbia. “This is an incredible day in the history of the Ocean State,” said Emily Hecht-McGowan, Director of Public Policy at Family Equality Council. “Parents who are LGBT all over Rhode Island can tuck their children into bed tonight knowing that their families are more secure, more respected, and more equal. We congratulate Rhode Island on moving one step closer to full equality for all families.”
The citizens of Rhode Island support marriage equality with a solid majority of 56% (and a 20 point lead over opponents). Their legislature has now reflected this consensus: The House passed the bill with a comfortable margin of support. Governor Lincoln Chafee supports the bill as well. He has already signed legislation to legalize civil unions (July 2011), as well as an executive order to recognize LGBT couples’ marriages performed in other states.
The Rhode Island Senate has also been hearing a clear message from constituents across the state. State Senator Paul Jabor, who represents a very traditionally Catholic district, voted to move S-38 onto the Senate floor for a vote because, he says, “my responsibility was to follow what it was that my constituency wanted me to do… There was a common theme that people want to be treated fairly and equally.” One of the prominent groups advocating for the bill, Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, has delivered over 1,600 constituent letters in favor of equality since its inception in January 2013.
Between the 10 states that have enacted marriage equality, Washington D.C., and the 7 states with comprehensive civil unions, nearly 40% of the US population now lives somewhere with laws in place for LGBT relationship recognition, according to Census figures. For a great visual guide, check out Family Equality’s map showing state-by-state policies on marriage and relationship recognition.
At the moment, several other states are poised to follow Rhode Island in passing marriage equality. Think Progress has a list of six states that could soon join in to fully protect and enfranchise LGBT couples and families.
Who do you think will be next? Some signs point towards Delaware…
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