ON Thursday, the Rhode Island House of Representatives is expected to approve legislation to extend the right to marry to all Rhode Islanders, regardless of sexual orientation. I plan to sign the Marriage Equality Act into law immediately after the vote, on the steps of the Rhode Island State House, overlooking downtown Providence. This is the same spot where, in my 2011 inaugural address, I called for Rhode Island to embrace marriage equality.
Signing the bill will be gratifying for many reasons. When I first defended gay marriage in 2004, as a Republican United States senator, most of my party colleagues were extreme in their opposition. In fact, to draw a line in the sand, they scheduled a vote on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in June 2006 — just before the height of a campaign season.
In the end, only six Republican senators joined me in opposing the amendment: Susan Collins, Judd Gregg, John McCain, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter and John E. Sununu. Of those, only Mr. McCain and Ms. Collins remain in the Senate. Even many of those Republicans opposing a constitutional ban avoided taking a position on gay marriage by saying it was an issue best left to the states. But I went further and announced my support for full marriage equality.