And then there were ten – Rhode Island became the final New England state to enact a marriage equality law today. The Washington Blade reports:
Rhode Islanders United for Marriage Campaign Director Ray Sullivan, gay House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence) and other same-sex marriage supporters joined Chafee on the steps of the State House in Providence as he signed the measure into law. The state House of Representatives gave final approval to the bill by a 56-15 vote margin less than an hour before the signing ceremony. “This law does not take anything away from a heterosexual couple,” lesbian state Rep. Deb Ruggiero (D-Jamestown) said. “Nothing is going to change, but tomorrow morning for gays and lesbians it’s going to be a very, very different world.”
Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin had a severe case of sour grapes, telling his flock to steer clear of gay and lesbian weddings:
Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence urged Rhode Island Catholics in a letter that will run in its newspaper on May 9 they should “examine their consciences very carefully” before they decide to “endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies. Like many others, I am profoundly disappointed that Rhode Island has approved legislation that seeks to legitimize ‘same-sex marriage,’” he writes.
The state’s gays and lesbians were, in turns, ecstatic and melancholy. LGBTQ Nation reports:
“I’ve been waiting 32 years for this day, and I never thought it would come in my lifetime,” said Raymond Beausejour, a 66-year-old gay North Providence man who has been with his partner for 32 years. “For the first time in my life, I feel welcome in my own state.”
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 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.’”
USA Today reports that NOM head Brian Brown has his head in the sand:
“I don’t know that I would say Rhode Island is a trend,” Brown said, also questioning victories for supporters of gay-marriage initiatives in Maine, Maryland and Washington State last November. “Again, we’re talking about states that are not necessarily indicative of the rest of the country. These are pretty deep-blue, liberal states we’re talking about.” Even so, Brown, the head of the leading national organization opposing same-sex marriage, finds himself playing defense as more Americans support same-sex marriage and more state legislatures debate measures authorizing it.
LGBT Weekly reports on how much of the country now enjoys full marriage equality:
Iowa, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Washington and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. Their combined populations, based on U.S. Census estimates for 2012, represent 15.8% of the U.S. population. The addition of Rhode Island’s 1,050,292 residents will nudge that up to 16.1%.
In three months, gay and lesbian couples will begin marrying in Rhode Island!