Gov. Lincoln Chafee
RI Now 10th State To Allow Gay Marriage
By David Klepper
Originally printed 5/9/2013 (Issue 2119 - Between The Lines News)
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -
Rhode Island has become the nation's 10th state to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed, after a 16-year effort to extend marriage rights in this heavily Roman Catholic state.
Gays, lesbians, their friends and families erupted into cheers Thursday following a final 56-15 vote in the Rhode Island House, and then again an hour later when Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed the bill into law on the Statehouse steps.
"Democracy feels good, doesn't it?" said House Speaker Gordon Fox, D-Providence, who is gay. Fox struggled to keep his composure as he addressed the crowd at the Statehouse, looking over at his longtime partner, Marcus LaFond. "This tells me our relationship does matter. It means that we mean something."
The first marriages will take place Aug. 1, when the new law takes effect.
The day was bittersweet for Deborah Tevyaw, whose wife, state corrections officer Pat Baker, succumbed to lung cancer two years ago. Months before she died, Baker, relying on an oxygen tank, angrily told lawmakers that it was unfair that Tevyaw wasn't considered her wife in Rhode Island despite their marriage in Massachusetts.
"I'm ecstatic, but sad she's not here to see this," Tevyaw said. "I'm sure she's watching, but she's not here next to me. Before she died, she told me, 'I started this, and now I'm leaving it in your hands.' We worked hard for this. There were petitions, door knocking, phone calls. I think people decided, 'just let people be happy."'
Once consigned to the political fringe, gay marriage advocates succeeded this year thanks to a sprawling lobbying effort that included support from organized labor leaders, religious clergy, leaders including Chafee and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and hundreds of volunteers. Their efforts overcame the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church and lawmakers including Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, who voted no but allowed the issue to come to a vote anyway.
Supporters framed the issue as one of civil rights, arguing in daylong legislative hearings that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and protections given to opposite-sex married couples. The Catholic Church was the most significant opponent, with Bishop Thomas Tobin urging lawmakers to defeat what he called an "immoral and unnecessary" change to traditional marriage law.
On Thursday, Tobin repeated his opposition, writing in a letter to the state's Catholics that "homosexual acts are... always sinful."
"Catholics should examine their consciences very carefully before deciding whether or not to endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies," Tobin wrote. "To do so might harm their relationship with God."
The Rhode Island legislation states that religious institutions may set their own rules regarding who is eligible to marry within the faith and specifies that no religious leader is obligated to officiate at any marriage ceremony and no religious group is required to provide facilities or services related to a gay marriage.
While ministers already cannot be forced to marry anyone, the exemption helped assuage concerns from some lawmakers that clergy could face lawsuits for abiding by their religious convictions.
Under the new law, civil unions will no longer be available to same-sex couples as of Aug. 1, though the state would continue to recognize existing civil unions. Lawmakers approved civil unions two years ago, though few couples have sought them.
The first marriages will take place Aug. 1, when the new law takes effect. Raymond Beausejour, 66, used to photograph weddings, but the gay North Providence man never expected he would have one himself.
"I've been waiting 32 years for this day, and I never thought it would come in my lifetime," said Beausejour, who has been with his partner for 32 years. "For the first time in my life, I feel welcome in my own state."
Delaware could be the next state to approve gay marriage. Legislation legalizing same-sex marriage has narrowly passed the Delaware House and now awaits a vote in the state Senate.
Advocates in Rhode Island say that while they're proud the state is the 10th to legalize gay marriage, they expect other states to quickly follow as support for gay marriage grows around the country. According to polling experts at Gallup, 53 percent of Americans support giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry, up from 27 percent in 1996.
Rep. Frank Ferri, D-Warwick, who lobbied for gay marriage before becoming a lawmaker himself, recalled that years ago he asked a sitting lawmaker if he would consider supporting same-sex marriage. "He said `I'll pour gasoline on my head and light myself on fire before that bill passes,"' Ferri recalled.
That has changed, said Ferri, who is gay. Ferri said he hopes Fox can marry him and his partner on Aug. 1, which also happens to be the couple's 32nd anniversary.
"Today a dream has come true," he said. "No more hiding in the shadows. No more being ashamed of who we are."
- Study: Only 16 Percent Of Men Who Have Sex With Men Report Using Condoms 'Always'
- New Data Shows U.S. Benefiting From Same-Sex Marriage
- NYC Approves Ordinance On Trans Birth Certificates
- LGBT Baby Boomers Face Tough Retirement Hurdles
- In Wake Of Murder, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
- Financial Tips For Same-Sex Couples
- Group: Army To Recognize Transgender Vets' Names
- New Non-Discrimination Rule Implemented Federally
- Attorney: Same-Sex Marriages Should Start Soon In Miss.
- Will U.S. Supreme Court Resolve Marriage Debate?
- Mississippi Judge Overturns Same-Sex Marriage Ban
- Study Suggests Genetic Link For Male Homosexuality
- Shelter in Kansas City Won't House Gay Couples
- Gay Marriage Issue Now Linked To Ohio Senator
- Another Top Ohio Republican Speaks On Gay Marriage
- Pope Reinforces Traditional Family Values
- Election 2014: LGBT Candidates Make Some History Across U.S.
- Republican Sweep Captures Senate And Some Pro-Gay Governors
- LGBT Veterans Still Denied Equal Federal Benefits
- GLSEN Releases New National School Climate Survey On America's Middle And High Schools
- Courtyard by Marriott Detroit Downtown
- Williams Auto World
- Fraser Bicycle & Fitness
- Financial Services
- University of Michigan
Credit Union (UMCU)
- Massage Therapy
- Triangle Chiropractic
- Pet Portraits
- Pet Art By Jen
- Religious & Spiritual
- Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing
- Fox Theatre
- Ann Arbor Animal Hospital
Enter contests to win great prizes like CDs, DVDs, concert tickets and more
- Exclusive! 'Looking' Star Russell Tovey On Sex Scenes, His Famous Butt & That Rimming Cake
- Q&A: Andy Cohen On His (Almost) Tell-All Book, 'Nasty' Names Gays Call Him
- Divine Intervention: Bette Midler Talks Early Gay Support, 'Diva' Degradation & Twerking ('Girls, Please!')
- Creep of the Week: The Duggars
- Being Young & Coming Out To Bette Midler
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters today!
A study published in the journal The Lancet HIV reports that there is a significant disparity in HIV prevalence between black and white men who have sex with men. The study was published on Nov. 18 and found a startling 32 percent prevalence rate for black men who have sex with men, compared with only eight percent for white men who have sex with men.View More World AIDS Day
This Week's Issue
Download or view this week's print issue today!
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters today!