PROVIDENCE — The wait is over for gay and lesbian couples in Rhode Island. The House of Representatives’ 56-15 vote last night to approve same-sex marriage brought to the Statehouse steps Governor Lincoln Chafee, who immediately signed the bill into law and made Rhode Island the tenth state in the country to allow same sex couples to marry.
The bill sponsored by by Senator Donna Nesselbush (District 15 — Pawtucket) will allow same-sex couples to legally marry come August 1.
After the approval, supporters of the 16-year fight, applauded and numerous people began singing “My Country ’Tis of Thee.”
At 5:45, hundreds of people filled the South Steps of the Statehouse to listen to overjoyed speeches by Speaker of the House Gordon D. Fox, Chafee, and Nesselbush, among others.
“Today we are making history,” announced the governor. “We are living up to the ideals of our founders, who believed so deeply in the words etched in the State House: ‘to hold forth a lively experiment that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained with full liberty in religious concernments,’” he told the crowd.
Many Representatives, prior to yesterday’s vote, had a feeling the bill would be approved by a large margin.
Representative Patricia Serpa (District 27 — West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) explained that she thought that since the bill was amended, “the people who voted it down in January will approve it.”
This bill differs from others introduced because it contains wording that would protect religious groups from having to go against their own beliefs; basically, the churches now reserve the right to deny the ceremony to gay and lesbian couples if they feel the union goes against their church beliefs.
Because of this, numerous members of the House, including local Representatives, felt more comfortable voting for this bill than the previous one introduced in January.
Representative Jared Nunes (District 25 — Coventry, West Warwick) explained that even though he voted yes for the first bill, he lobbied that it require more religious protection, “and this bill has gotten closer to what it should be; it’s only gotten better,” he praised.
Republican Representative Patricia Morgan (District 26 — Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) also explained that she voted no in January to the bill because she was concerned about the religious liberties of the churches.
“But the Senate bill corrected that to keep the churches safe if they object so I decided to vote yes because that impediment was taken away,” she said.
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