Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee on Monday, in a move that clarifies state law, announced the state will now recognize same-sex marriages from outside its borders.
The order signed by Gov. Lincoln Chafee in a Statehouse ceremony directs state agencies to recognize marriages performed out of state as legal and treat same-sex married couples the same as heterosexual 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.
The move has been hailed by equality groups.
“This is a great and historic day for Rhode Island. Lincoln Chafee is now the first governor in the country to sign an executive order providing critical clarity and direction to government agencies regarding the recognition of same-sex, out-of-state marriages.
Despite long-standing Rhode Island law respecting out-of-state marriages, the fact is that far too many same-sex couples have encountered problems with the state refusing to recognize the validity of their marriage, causing harm, confusion, unnecessary expense, and heartache.
This executive order will go a long way towards eliminating those problems, and makes it clear that there is no longer a gay exemption to the kind of protections and responsibilities that only marriage can provide.While this moves us closer to full marriage-equality, nothing less is sufficient, and we will keep fighting. The General Assembly should take note of the courageous leadership demonstrated by President Obama and Governor Chafee and move immediately to pass full marriage equality.
Equality groups point out that while this technically affirms same-sex couples’ ability to access marriage rights, citizens should be able to have those rights recognized without having to marry out of state.
Therefore, while this order is important because it supports same-sex couples’ rights to jointly adopt and raise families, the order does not replace legislative action to make marriage equality legal within the state.
Currently Rhode Island has a civil unions law, however the law has been called a “fiasco” by the ACLU because of its broad religious exemptions. Read more on that here.