The Freedom to Marry in Rhode Island

Winning Marriage: August 1, 2013

Same-sex couples began marrying in Rhode Island on August 1, 2013 after Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the state’s marriage bill into law on May 2, 2013. The bills passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate in the weeks prior.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • September 30, 2006: A Superior Court judge in Massachusetts rules in a case brought by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders that same-sex couples in Rhode Island may marry in MA because Rhode Island does not prohibit same-sex couples from marrying by state statute or constitutional amendment. The Rhode Island Attorney General announces the state will not respect these marriages.
  • July 2010: Polling in Rhode Island tracks majority support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • June 30, 2011: The Rhode Island Legislature passes a state statute creating civil union for same-sex couples. This legislation, while a step forward, fails to give same-sex couples the full rights and protections that a marriage provides.
  • May 14, 2012: Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee directs state agencies to ensure that out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples are respected and treated equally under law, in the same way that Rhode Island treats different-sex couples' marriages.
  • January 3, 2013: Legislators in Rhode Island introduce bills in the House and Senate to extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples.
  • January 22, 2013: The House Judiciary Committee becomes the first legislative body in Rhode Island history to advance the freedom to marry when it moves the marriage bill to the House floor.
  • January 24, 2013: The Rhode Island House votes overwhelmingly in favor of the marriage bill.
  • May 2, 2013: Governor Lincoln Chafee signs the freedom to marry into law.
  • August 1, 2013: The freedom to marry takes effect in Rhode Island as same-sex couples begin to marry across the state.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

  • Rhode Islanders United for Marriage was a broad coalition of people, organizations, and groups working to secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Rhode Island. Freedom to Marry was proud to be a leading member of the coalition.
  • Marriage Equality Rhode Island was the lead state organization in the fight for equal marriage for same-sex couples in Rhode Island.
  • Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders: Rhode Island is New England's leading legal rights organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status and gender identity and expression.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.