Following months of lobbying from Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed an executive order today that will recognize the marriages of same-sex couples performed outside Rhode Island, in jurisdictions where marriage equality is legal.
Gov. Chafee's executive order is historic for Rhode Island in that it moves the state one step closer to full marriage equality. The move is significant for the rest of the United States in that today Gov. Chafee becomes the first governor in the country to issue an executive order regarding out-of-state marriages for same-sex couples.
"It's important because all families deserve equal protection and recognition under the law," said Ray Sullivan, MERI's campaign director. "Gov. Chafee, by doing this today, is affirming that idea."
With the signing of today's executive order, same-sex couples - who were legally married in another jurisdiction but reside in Rhode Island - will be able to rely on their marriages to protect them - and their families - in a number of important ways, such as:
• Being able to obtain coverage from state-regulated insurance companies (incl. health, life and car) on the same terms as opposite-sex spouses.
• Both a birth mother and her spouse will be recognized as parents on the birth certificate of any child born into marriage.
• State employees with same-sex spouses will be entitled to benefits including health insurance and pension benefits.
“Today, Rhode Island took an important step toward equality by acknowledging the love and commitment of countless married gay and lesbian couples across the Ocean State,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “A majority of Americans today agree: everyone should be able to marry the person they love. We hope this is but a stepping stone on the path to full marriage equality for every Rhode Islander.”
A Gallup poll released earlier this month finds that, for the second consecutive year, half of Americans support marriage equality. President Barack Obama announced his support for full marriage equality just last week, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to do so.
Currently marriage equality is legal in six states (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont) and the District of Columbia, as well as Canada, Spain, Argentina and seven other countries. Rhode Island offers civil unions, but the discriminatory Corvese Amendment to the civil unions legislation contains what MERI calls "overly broad and harmful religious exemption language."
GLAAD applauds Gov. Chafee for signing an executive order that will make a big difference in the lives of so many loving and committed same-sex couples. We also congratulate our colleagues at MERI & GLAD, and now look forward to the day when all Rhode Islanders will be able to marry in their home state regardless of their sexual orientation.