Just days after Rhode Island Governor
Lincoln Chafee signed a civil unions bill into law, backers of full
marriage for gay and lesbian couples have vowed to return next year.
Chafee on Saturday signed the civil
unions bill into law, making Rhode Island the fifth after Illinois,
New Jersey, Delaware and Hawaii to recognize gay couples with civil
The governor, who supports giving gay
couples the right to marry, expressed reservations about the law's
limited benefits 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
Lawmakers shifted from supporting a gay
marriage law to civil unions after it became clear a marriage bill
would not clear the Republican-controlled Senate.
Gay rights groups say they object to an
amendment sponsored by Rep. Arthur J. Corvese that exempts religious
organizations from the requirement that they treat gay couples in a
civil union as they would any other married couple, and add that
civil unions are not equal to marriage.
Ray Sullivan, campaign director for the
group Marriage Equality Rhode Island, told the Associated Press
on Tuesday that the fight will continue next year, and that his group
plans to make marriage equality a key issue in the 2012 elections.