Rhode Island: Same-sex marriage bill heading for final vote

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Rhode Island is poised to become the tenth US state to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The House Judiciary Committee voted on Tuesday to send the state’s equal marriage bill to the full House for a final vote on Thursday.

The Senate approved the bill last week by a comfortable margin and the House passed it in January. It must return to the House because the Senate made small changes to the bill to ensure religious-based organisations like the Knights of Columbus wouldn’t face lawsuits if they declined to host same-sex weddings.

Governor Lincoln Chafee is expected to sign the bill into law quickly after it passes the House.

Nine US states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex couples to marry.

The first same-sex marriages in Rhode Island could take place from 1 August.

Civil unions would no longer be available to same-sex couples as of that date, though the state would continue to recognise existing civil unions. Lawmakers approved civil unions two years ago.

Rhode Island is currently the only New England state without marriage equality.