Providence, Rhode Island — Following its passage in the Senate Thursday, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee signed into law a bill that legalized homosexual marriage in the state.
Before putting his signature to the legislation, Chafee spoke to a crowd of homosexuals and other same-sex “marriage” advocates on the steps of the Rhode Island State House.
“Today we are making history,” he said. “We are living up to the ideals of our founder.”
House Speaker Gordon Fox, a homosexual, was present with his longtime partner, Marcus LaFond.
“This tells me our relationship does matter,” he said, looking over at LaFond. “It means that we mean something.”
The bill cleared the Senate with more of a struggle than in the House, and passed with a final vote of 56-15. Representatives in the state approved the legislation in January.
According to reports, the most vocal opponents to the measure were Catholic residents. Thomas Tobin sent out a letter to Catholic parishioners in the state, outlining that “homosexual acts are… always sinful.” He said that Catholics who support or attend same-sex ceremonies “might harm their relationship with God.”
The bill as written provides an exemption for religious organizations regarding the accommodation of homosexual “weddings,” and permits clergy to decline to perform ceremonies if they believe that they violate their faith.
Rhode Island now becomes the tenth state to legalize same-sex nuptials, following Washington, Maine and Maryland, which passed measures this past November during the presidential election. Homosexual “marriage” is also legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, where law passed via the legislature as opposed to popular vote.
Over 30 states have a constitutional amendment on the books enshrining marriage as being solely between a man and a woman, where similar measures to legalize same-sex ceremonies have been struck down significantly. However, Delaware and Illinois are reportedly also seeking to following in Rhode Island’s footsteps.
Homosexual marriage remains a significant issue across the nation this year as the United States Supreme Court is poised to release a decision regarding two lawsuits challenging the institution of marriage next month. As previously reported, the nine justices on the court are pondering matters pertaining to California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
During oral argument in March, Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed concern with whether the federal government even has the right to rule on the issue.
“The question is,” he asserted, “whether or not the federal government … has the authority to regulate marriage.”
“[DOMA] has 1,100 laws, which in our society means that the federal government is intertwined with the citizens’ day-to-day life, you are at real risk of running in conflict with what has always been thought to be the essence of the state police power, which is to regulate marriage, divorce, custody,” he continued.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor likewise questioned where the line would be drawn if the court approved of same-sex “marriage.”
“If you say that marriage is a fundamental right, what state restrictions could ever exist?” she inquired. “Meaning, what state restrictions with respect to the number of people, with respect to the incest laws, the mother and child, assuming that they are the age — I can accept that the state has probably an overbearing interest on protecting a child until they’re of age to marry, but what’s left?”
Ceremonies are set to begin on August 1st in Rhode Island.