PROVIDENCE, May 3, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee has signed a law redefining “marriage” to include homosexual couples, making Rhode Island the tenth state to accept same-sex “marriages.”
Hundreds of homosexual activists gathered to watch the governor sign the bill.
“I know that you have been waiting for this day to come,” Chafee told them. “I know you have loved ones that dreamed this would happen but did not live to see it. But I am proud to say that now at long last, you are free to marry the person you love.”
The law will take effect August 1. After that date, civil unions will no longer be available to same-sex couples in Rhode Island, only marriage. However, the state will continue to recognize existing civil partnerships that have been formed since the state approved civil unions two years ago.
Additionally, the law contains a provision allowing those who entered civil unions to convert those legal partnerships to “marriages.”
In an op-ed for the New York Times Wednesday, Chafee explained why he supported the legislation.
“A historic realignment is happening all around us,” wrote Chafee, “as Americans from all walks of life realize that this is the right thing to do.”
“Much of the argument for and against gay marriage has revolved around the morality of the issue. Each side feels intensely that its position is more righteous than the other side’s,” the governor wrote. “I personally feel that Rhode Island is a better state, and America is a better country, when we are as inclusive as possible.”
The governor also stated that he believes the legalization of homosexual “marriage” will bring new blood to the state’s job market.
“The point is not simply that we are welcoming to gay people, though we are,” wrote Chafee. “It is that we want to welcome everyone. The talented workers who are driving the new economy — young, educated and forward-looking — want to live in a place that reflects their values. They want diversity, not simply out of a sense of justice, but because diversity makes life more fun.”
Rhode Island’s new law redefines marriage by removing all gender-specific language from the state’s marriage laws. It also adds new language that permits a person to marry any other eligible person, regardless of sex.
While the bill contains a clause allowing churches to refuse to conduct same-sex “marriages” on religious grounds, that protection does not extend to businesses owned by people of faith. Photographers, bakeries, inns, and other for-profit ventures that cater to the wedding industry may not refuse their services to gay “wedding” ceremonies, regardless of religious objection to homosexuality.
The day before the bill’s final vote and signing, Christopher Plante, executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage, criticized the legislation and said he worried that it would lead to persecution of religious people who oppose homosexuality, as it has in other states.
“Redefining marriage into a genderless institution to satisfy the demands of a small but politically powerful group is bad enough,” Plante wrote in a statement, “but besides advocating a flawed policy HB 5015 and SB 38 contain a shocking lack of religious liberty protections.”
“In other states that have recently redefined marriage such as New York, Maine, Vermont and Washington, people of faith have faced consequences for refusing to accommodate genderless marriage in violation of their deeply-held faith,” wrote Plante, and referenced several different cases to justify his concern.
“A Christian couple in Vermont was sued for not hosting a same-sex ceremony in their inn, and was forced to pay a fine and agree to no longer accommodate any weddings in their facility,” Plante wrote. “Recently the Washington State Attorney General has taken legal action against a Christian florist for declining to utilize her artistic talents in celebration of a same-sex wedding, which she opposes on religious grounds. The florist has also been sued by a lesbian couple and the ACLU. Notary Publics in Maine have been warned that they must surrender their certifications if they refuse to solemnize a same-sex marriage even if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. Town Clerks in New York faced similar threats.”
Plante urged the House to stop the bill from reaching the governor’s desk, but to no avail. The House approved the legislation in a 56-15 vote.