Rhode Island gay marriage bill signed into law


Supporters of same-sex marriage gather in front of the US Supreme Court on March 26, 2013 in Washington, DC.


Jewel Samad

Rhode Island became the 10th US state to allow gay marriage today.

With hundreds looking on, Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed legislation into law recognizing such unions on the state Capitol steps shortly after a final vote of approval in the state House.

More from GlobalPost: Rhode Island Senate passes gay marriage legislation

The first weddings will take place Aug. 1, when the law goes into effect.

The signing marks the end of a 16-year effort to secure equal rights for gay couples in Rhode Island. Loud cheers went up from state lawmakers, the state's congressional delegation and gay rights activists as Chafee signed the bill into law.

"Today a dream has come true," state Rep. Frank Ferri, who is openly gay, told WPRI. "This moment is surreal. For us in Rhode Island, we have achieved an understanding about the human condition - that we all are one family and need to look out for each other."

More from GlobalPost: Gay marriage: Rhode Island House passes bill

The law puts Rhode Island in the company of nine other states, most of them in relatively liberal New England -- Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Iowa, Maryland and Washington state also allow gay marriage, as does Washington, DC.

Delaware may join them soon. A bill legalizing same-sex marriage there won narrow approval in the state House this week and now heads to the state Senate.

Gay marriage is not recognized by federal law, but the US Supreme Court is taking up the issue.