Rhode Island on its way to becoming 10th state to allow gay marriage


People hold a giant rainbow flag during a demonstration to support gay marriage and adoption in Lyon, France.

Rhode Island senators put the state on its way to becoming the 10th to allow gay marriage on Wednesday, passing legislation with a 26-12 vote.

The bill easily passed the Rhode Island House in January, while today's Senate vote was seen as the true test of its viability. Now that senators have passed the legislation, it will return to the House — likely next week — for a vote that is seen as largely procedural before going to Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who supports it.

"Rhode Island — founded as a welcoming and tolerant society — cannot afford to be an outlier in our region," Chafee said Wednesday in a statement to WBUR. "We must join the rest of New England and New York. We must put the welcome mat out and be inviting to all those who want to live and work in Rhode Island and contribute to our state’s economy."

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Others have also seen the historical significance of the move toward allowing same-sex marriage.

"This is a historic piece of legislation, one that literally has been in the works for more than 20 years," said Sen. Donna Nesselbush, D-Pawtucket, the bill's main sponsor in the Senate. "This is something that undoes centuries of discrimination against gay and lesbian couples."

Gay marriage legislation was introduced in Rhode Island's General Assembly nearly two decades ago, but was only given a vote now. Last fall, House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is gay, promised to hold a vote early in the session.