Rhode Island became the tenth state in the nation to legalize gay marriage on Thursday evening, when Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the recently passed bill into law. The final vote wasn't even close. In the state House of Representatives, 56 members voted in favor of the bill while just 15 voted against. The law does specify that religious organizations can set their own rules for what does and doesn't constitute gay marriage, but come August 1, same sex marriage will be legal in eyes of the law. The only possible down side is that civil unions will cease on July 1. They weren't that popular to begin with, though.
The civil rights victory comes just a few weeks after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two separate landmark cases related to gay marriage. The rulings expected next month will impact the marriage equality movement going forward, as many expect the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to get struck down. However, there's plenty of data to suggest that the movement is well on its way to spreading across the country. Illinois, Minnesota and Delaware are all close to passing gay marriage legislation. The president's pledged his support for marriage equality. And except for the few, fringe holdouts, the majority of Americans approve of gay marriage, too.
Meanwhile, Rhode Islanders couldn't be happier. "I'm ecstatic," Deborah Tevyaw, who had campaigned for the legislation, told the Associated Press. "We worked hard for this. There were petitions, door knocking, phone calls." Everyone who's campaigned for marriage equality knows that the finish line is still far away — having ten states with gay marriage also means have 40 states without it — but many people feel like the time has come. As Tevyaw put it, "I think people decided, 'just let people be happy.'"