On January 24, 2013, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed a bill (51-19) legalizing same-sex marriage and affording same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. If passed by the Senate, Rhode Island would join the rest of the New England states in permitting same-sex marriages.
The bill explicitly defines marriage as the legally recognized union of two people, and permits any two individuals to marry regardless of gender. The bill also provides that religious institutions are free to refuse to perform such marriages because of their faith and should not be penalized by any state or local agency for refusing to solemnize such a marriage. Finally, the bill recognizes civil unions in other states as marriages in Rhode Island. +2013 Bill Text RI H.B. 5015; +2013 Bill Tracking RI H.B. 5015.
House Speaker Gordon Fox, D-Providence, who is gay and supported same-sex legislation when it was first introduced in Rhode Island in 1997, told the Associated Press, "Today is a great day. Today ... we stand for equality, we stand for justice."
The bill now moves to the Rhode Island Senate where it may face a debate, as Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Newport, is opposed to same-sex marriage.
If passed, the law could have a significant impact on workplace policies regarding sexual orientation discrimination and benefits for same-sex spouses.
XpertHR will continue to monitor the progress of this bill.
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