Moments after a gay marriage bill
cleared its final legislative hurdle on Thursday, Rhode Island
Governor Lincoln Chafee, an independent, signed it into law on the
steps of the State House.
The measure cleared the Senate last
Wednesday with the help of all 5 of its Republican members. It
returned to a House committee on Wednesday to reconcile some language
differences between a version approved three months earlier in the
House lawmakers approved the
legislation with a 56-15 vote, a better outcome for supporters than
the previous 51-19 vote.
Hundreds of jubilant supporters
gathered outside the State House to witness the signing. Among those
seated near the podium were the bill's lead sponsors, Rep. Arthur
Handy and Senator Donna Nesselbush, and House Speaker Gordon Fox, of
whom the last two are openly gay.
“Today we are making history, living
up to the ideals of our founders,” Chafee told the crowd. “I am
proud to make the Marriage Equality Act the law of the law in Rhode
“I am proud to say that now at long
last, you are free to marry the person you love,” he added.
Fox, who attended the ceremony with his
partner of 15 years, Marcus, told colleagues who voted for the bill,
“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart,” and choked
back tears when he said, “This says to me that we matter.”
Nesselbush thanked “all those who
came out before it was safe to do so.”
“Together, we shattered the myths.
We changed hearts and minds on this issues one at a time,” she told
The last speaker to address the crowd
was Rev. Gene Dyszlewski, chairman of the Rhode Island Religious
Coalition for Marriage Equality.
“When we allow all loving couples to
marry, it strengthens our communities, our families, our
congregations,” Dyszlewski said.
The legislation takes effect on August
Island Governor Lincoln Chafee: Gay marriage will boost economy.)
CORRECTION: A previous version of this
story stated that Rep. Arthur Handy is openly gay. He is not. We
apologize for this error.