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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 18, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 20
Rhode Island to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages
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Rhode Island to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed an executive order May 14 directing state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, and to treat same-sex married couples the same as opposite-sex ones.

In 2007, then-Attorney General Patrick Lynch issued an opinion in favor of recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages, but it was nonbinding. Chafee said his signing of the executive order is 'following through' on that opinion. Rhode Island legalized same-sex civil unions last year, but does not allow marriages.

Ray Sullivan, executive director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, called the governor's order 'significant' and 'bold.'

'It's important because all families deserve equal protection and recognition under the law,' he said. 'Governor Chafee, by doing this today, is affirming that idea.'

The order will 'have immediate positive impact,' according to GLAD attorney Karen Loewy. She explained that married Lesbian and Gay couples now 'will be able to receive consistent, equal treatment from their state government.'

GLAD has worked closely with Chafee, an independent who previously served as a Republican in the U.S. Senate. Chafee supported a marriage equality bill last year but was unable to push it through the legislature.

The executive order is expected to have many real-world implications.

Same-sex spouses of state employees and anyone covered by an insurance company regulated in Rhode Island will be entitled to health and life insurance benefits, equal rights advocates said.

Both partners in a same-sex couple will be able to list their names as parents on a child's birth certificate, and same-sex couples will be entitled to sales tax exemptions on the transfer of property, including vehicles.

Predictably, the state chapter of NOM was aghast.

'To issue an executive order recognizing same-sex marriage flies in the face of the clearly expressed actions of the legislature and the people,' said Christopher C. Plante, regional coordinator for the National Organization for Marriage.

According to NOM's Rhode Island chapter, 80% of state residents want the marriage equality issue to be decided by the people. Only 7% want the legislature to decide, the group claims.

An independent Brown University poll conducted in 2009 showed that 60% of Rhode Islanders support marriage equality, with only 31% opposed.

A 2010 poll found that 63% of Rhode Island Catholics supported same-sex marriage, provided it did not infringe on the church's right to refuse to perform such marriages. Forty-three percent of Rhode Islanders are Roman Catholic.

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