Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee on
Saturday signed a civil unions bill into law, the AP reported.
The state becomes the fifth after
Illinois, New Jersey, Delaware and Hawaii to recognize gay and
lesbian couples with civil unions.
Chafee expressed reservations about the
law but added that it would protect thousands of families, saying
that the legislation “brings tangible rights and benefits to
thousands of Rhode Islanders” and that it “provides a foundation from
which we will continue to fight for full marriage equality.”
As a candidate for governor, Chafee
said he supported full marriage for gay couples, a position he
reiterated during his swearing in ceremony.
A gay marriage bill was shelved in the
state after House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is openly gay and a
supporter of marriage equality, conceded there wasn't sufficient
support in the legislature for the measure.
The compromise failed to mollify either
side of the issue. Gay marriage supporters argued that separate is
never equal and objected to the bill's broad religious exemptions.
Foes argued that civil unions would be used as a steppingstone to
groups called on the governor to veto the bill.
The move comes a week after New York
became the sixth – and most populous – state to legalize gay