The US state of Rhode Island has become the 10th state to allow homosexuals to wed as a 16-year effort to extend marriage rights in this heavily-Roman Catholic state ended with the triumphant cheers of hundreds of supporters of same-sex marriage.
“Now, at long last, you are free to marry the person that you love,” Governor Lincoln Chafee told the crowd who were gathering on the Statehouse grounds.
On Thursday evening, Chafee signed the bill into law on the Statehouse steps following a final 56-15 vote in the House. The first weddings will take place on August 1, when the law takes effect.
Once consigned to the political fringe, gay marriage advocates succeeded this year thanks to a sprawling lobbying effort that included support from organized labor leaders and leaders including Chafee.
Their efforts overcame the opposition of the Catholic Church and lawmakers including Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, who voted no but allowed the issue to come to a vote anyway.
Delaware could be the next state to approve gay marriage. Legislation legalizing same-sex marriage has narrowly passed the Delaware House and now awaits a vote in the state Senate.
Same-sex marriage is legally recognized in several jurisdictions within the United States. As of May 2013, 10 states-Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington-as well as the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage, representing 16.1% of the US population.
While several jurisdictions have legalized same-sex marriage through court rulings, legislative action, and popular vote, nine states prohibit same-sex marriage by statute and 30 prohibit it in their constitutions.
During the 21st century, public support for legalizing same-sex marriage has grown considerably. Various national polls conducted since 2011 show that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage.
On May 9, 2012, President Barack Obama became the first sitting US president to publicly declare support for the legalization of same-sex marriage. The Federal law still does not recognize same-sex unions.