Victory in Rhode Island! RI Senate passes the freedom to marry
April 24, 2013
Today, the Rhode Island Senate approved S38, the bill that will extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples throughout the state of Rhode Island. By a vote of 26-12, senators in Rhode Island voted to stand on the Right Side of History.
It's a landmark moment for marriage nationwide and for thousands of loving, committed couples in Rhode Island. The approval in the Senate today makes it all but certain that Rhode Island will be the tenth state in the United States to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage.
Similar legislation was passed in the RI House of Representatives by a vote of 51 to 19. The bill now returns to the House for confirmation and then will be sent to Governor Lincoln Chafee, who has promised to sign the bill into law.
Freedom to Marry's National Campaign Director Marc Solomon applauded the Senate's landmark vote, saying:
New England is now complete. Through court rulings, legislative action, and wins at the ballot, loving and committed couples from Bangor to Burlington, Providence to Portland, and Cambridge to Concord will soon be able to join in the freedom to marry.
Freedom to Marry is proud to be a lead partner in Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, the advocacy campaign that led this year's effort. We'd like to thank the leadership of our partners in the work, especially Marriage Equality Rhode Island and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, both of which have worked for years to bring about this victory. Thank you to House Speaker Gordon Fox, House bill sponsor Art Handy, Senate bill sponsor Donna Nesselbush, and the Senate GOP Caucus, which voted unanimously in favor of the freedom to marry legislation.
Sen. Donna Nesselbush, chief sponsor of the bill, delivered a moving speech about why marriage matters, how the religious exemptions in the marriage bill will protect religious institutions, and her personal connection to the legislation. "Of all the bills I will ever sponsor," she said, "This will be the bill that will have the most impact on my life. I move passage of this historic legislation."
Ray Sullivan, Campaign Director for Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, celebrated passage in the Senate. He said:
This is an historic day - we are close to the end of a journey that began in 1997, and today we took a giant step toward ensuring all loving, committed couples in Rhode Island have the freedom to marry. When we began this campaign in January, many thought we'd never succeed in the Senate. But, thanks to the tireless efforts of the many volunteers who knocked thousands of doors, made thousands of calls and wrote thousands of letters - we did it. We are elated, but our work is not yet done. We look forward to ensuring representatives hear from their constituents in support of S38 and H5015 as they go back to the House for a final vote.
Freedom to Marry was a founding member of Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, the broad coalition of civil rights organizations, faith institutions, and business leaders working to pass the freedom to marry in 2013. In addition to the leadership with the coalition, Freedom to Marry has been the lead funder of the campaign, providing more than $250,000 to the effort in 2013.
When Gov. Chafee signs the bill into law, Rhode Island will become the 10th state in the United States - plus the District of Columbia - where same-sex couples can marry.
While this victory is surely a moment to celebrate, we have so many more victories still to work toward: Same-sex couples are still denied the freedom to marry in 40 states. If you commit to standing with us in the coming weeks, we can win marriage in more states and end marriage discrimination once and for all.