Providence, R.I. • Rhode Island senators put the state on the path Wednesday to becoming the 10th state to allow same-sex couples to marry.
The gay marriage legislation easily passed the Rhode Island House in January, and the Senate vote was seen as the true test. The bill passed 26-12, and now returns to the House for a largely procedural vote, likely next week, before going to Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who supports the legislation.
"This is a historic piece of legislation, one that literally has been in the works for more than 20 years," said Sen. Donna Nesselbush, D-Pawtucket, the main sponsor in the Senate. "This is something that undoes centuries of discrimination against gay and lesbian couples."
While the other five New England states already allow gay marriage, heavily Catholic Rhode Island has been a holdout. Supporters this year mounted an aggressive and coordinated campaign that included organized labor, religious leaders, business owners and leaders including Chafee and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras.
The bill's chances improved when Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed said she would allow the bill to move forward, despite her opposition to gay marriage. Earlier this week, the Senate's five Republicans announced they would all support the measure.
The first gay marriages in Rhode Island could take place Aug. 1, when the legislation would take effect.