The Rhode Island Senate just voted 26-12 to approve marriage equality, guaranteeing that The Ocean State will be the 10th state to allow same-sex couples to legally marry. Because the Senate made some revisions to the bill, it still requires a final passage in the Rhode Island House, which will likely happen next Thursday. Back in January, it passed easily there by an overwhelming 51-19 vote. Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) has promised to sign the bill.
The Senate had previously been the bill’s primary obstacle. In 2011, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed (D) refused to let the Senate vote on the marriage equality bill passed that year by the House. Though she still opposes it, advocates have applauded her for not using her leadership position to block its advance this year. All five Republicans in the Senate also came out in support of the bill this week.
During today’s discussion, only one amendment was advanced, which would have allowed a referendum on the question, and it was defeated by a 10-28 vote. A similar proposal failed in committee on Wednesday. Though numerous religious exemptions allowing discrimination watered down the civil unions bill passed in 2011, no such amendments were offered for this bill. Rhode Island Sen. Harold Metts (D) was one of the few Senators who spoke extensively in opposition to the bill, launching into a 12-minute religious condemnation of same-sex marriage. Sen. James Doyle (D), who just came out for marriage equality a month ago, countered that if he gets to Heaven and the Lord’s first concern is how he voted on same-sex marriage, then he’s “doing pretty good.” Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D) notably changed her position to support the bill just before the vote, adding that she was voting on the side of love.
Not only will Rhode Island be the 10th state (plus the District of Columbia) to allow marriage equality, but with it, all of New England will now recognize same-sex couples’s marriages.