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Rhode Island




On May 2, 2013, Rhode Island became the eleventh jurisdiction in the United States to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the marriage bill into law on the steps of the Rhode Island State House after the bills passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate in the weeks prior.

Now that Rhode Island has approved the freedom to marry, the entire population of New England lives in states where committed same-sex couples can marry. 

Same-sex couples in Rhode Island began marrying on August 1, 2013.  


On January 3, 2013, legislators in Rhode Island introduced identical bills in the House and Senate that would extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. On January 22, the House Judiciary Committee became the first legislative body in Rhode Island history to advance the freedom to marry when it moved the marriage bill to the House floor, and on January 24, the RI House voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill.

On April 23, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance the marriage bill to the full Senate floor, and the next day, the full Senate approved the marriage bill by a vote of 26-12. The bill was then sent back to the House for confirmation, where it was approved May 2, 2013 and signed into law by the governor.

Previously, Rhode Island approved a bill to allow same-sex couples to join together in civil union. That law was approved on July 2, 2011 by Gov. Lincoln Chafee after it was approved by the state legislature. The bill took effect retroactively on July 1, 2011. The next year, on May 14, 2012, Gov. Chafee signed an executive order to recognize out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples.


A majority (59%) of Rhode Island voters support the freedom to marry. The voter majority includes 57% of Catholics, 58% of independent voters, 56% of women over 50, and 64% of parents. (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, July 2010) 


  • Rhode Islanders United for Marriage is a broad coalition of people, organizations, and groups working to secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Rhode Island. Freedom to Marry is proud to be a leading member of the coalition. 
  • Marriage Equality Rhode Island is the lead state organization in the fight for equal marriage for same-sex couples in Rhode Island.
  • Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide. 
  • Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders: Rhode Island is New England's leading legal rights organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status and gender identity and expression. 


According to The Williams Institute's analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census, 2,785 same-sex couples are living in Rhode Island, representing 6.7 same-sex couples per 1,000 households.

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