An elated Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee on Monday signed an executive order recognizing the out-of-state marriages of gay and lesbian couples.

Rhode Island began recognizing such unions in 2007 at the direction of then-state Attorney General Patrick Lynch. However, his opinion to state officials does not have the force of law.

“Despite the long-standing Rhode Island law respecting out-of-state marriages and a formal 2007 opinion from the attorney general that this law applies to same-sex marriage, there remains a great deal of confusion and inconsistency within state departments and agencies regarding the recognition of out-of-state marriages,” Chafee told those attending the signing ceremony. “Far too many Rhode Island couples have encountered problems with the state failing to consistently recognize the validity of their marriage, causing unnecessary difficulty, anxiety and expense.”

“Today, I'm signing executive order 1202 to make it clear that Rhode Island recognizes and respects out-of-state same-sex marriages,” he added.

Chafee, a strong supporter of marriage equality, last year signed a bill which recognizes gay couples with civil unions.

Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, one of the House's 4 openly gay members, cheered the move.

“As a result of Governor Chafee's leadership, our state has come another step closer to acknowledging that two adults in a loving and committed relationship should have their commitment to one another recognized as marriage,” Cicilline said in a statement. “I applaud Governor Chafee for his courageous and bold action.”

Rhode Island is bordered by three states where gay couples can legally marry: Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York.