To the delight of a crowd of hundreds of people in front of the Statehouse, Governor Lincoln Chafee on Thursday evening signed into law legislation making Rhode Island the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Two companion bills forming the basis for the law sped through the General Assembly in recent weeks, in sharp contrast to how the issue of same-sex marriage languished for the preceding 16 years.
Tuesday was a remarkable day in Rhode Island politics. First, the five-member GOP contingent in the 38-member state Senate -- including the chamber's low-key minority leader, Dennis Algiere -- offered its unified support for same-sex marriage. Then, and much more significantly, Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio found himself on the wrong side of a key vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rhode Island is now on the cusp of legalizing same-sex marriage.
With a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on same-sex marriage legislation expected as soon as next week, the group leading the campaign in favor of legalization says it plans to deploy more than 300 people this weekend to knock on doors and make phone calls.
Ray Sullivan, the head of Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, says the stepped-up effort is meant to connect constituents in key Senate districts with their legislators "to carry the message and the banner that it's finally time to pass marriage equality."