The gay and lesbian community celebrated Thursday after Rhode Island ended the 16-year fight to bring equality to the Catholic state.
Govenor Lincoln Chafee signed the long-awaited bill into law on the Statehouse steps in Providence after a 56-15 vote in the house. A chorus sang “Chapel of Love” while the crowd celebrated.
“Now, at long last, you are free to marry the person that you love,” said Chafee following the signing of the bill.
Rhode Island joins Conneticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington as the 10th state to allow and recognize same-sex marriages.
House Representative Frank Ferri, D-Warwick is a homosexual man who was elected to the house after acting as a gay marriage advocate expressed his joy after the signing. He told reporters, “It’s a day we knew would come, but it seemed so far away for so many years. So many people worked so hard for this day.”
Some couples will not get the chance to experience the joyful union with their partners as in the case of Deborah Tevyaw whose wife, Pat Baker, lost her battle with lung cancer two years ago. Baker told lawmakers that it was unfair that the couple’s Massachusetts was not recognized in the state of Rhode Island.
Tevyaw showed her appreciation and joy for the gay community, but the day was bittersweet without Baker by her side. “I’m ecstatic, but sad she’s not here to see this. I’m sure she’s watching, but she’s not here next to me. Before she died, she told me, ‘I started this, and now I’m leaving it in your hands,'” said Tevyaw.
The first weddings are set to take place August 1st when the law goes into action.