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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Rhode Island to Become 10th State to Allow Same-Sex Marriage

In the next few weeks, the United States Supreme Court will decide a series of same-sex cases from Massachusetts and California.  Meanwhile, the tiny state of Rhode Island is expected to become, through the passage of legislation, the tenth state to approve same-sex marriages.

The bill has been approved by both houses of the RI legislature; the state senate made some minor changes last week.  A procedural vote is scheduled for tomorrow and RI Governor Lincoln Chafee is expected to sign the bill into law shortly thereafter.  Once signed by Gov. Chafee, the law takes effect August 1st. 

RI is the only New England state not to have approved same-sex marriages.  A bill has been introduced into the RI legislature every year since 1997. 

Although civil unions were approved by the RI legislature two years ago, only a few couples have sought this status.  Last night at midnight, Colorado passed legislation approving civil unions and it's legislature is now expected to sponsor same-sex marriage legislation.

In Iowa, the state legislature has voted to cut the salaries of the 4 justices that remain on the Iowa Supreme Court from their decision striking down a ban on same-sex marriage on grounds that the law violated Iowa's constitution.  [Note: the other three justices that were part of the unanimous 2009 decision did not make it past the 2010 state elections.]

All this activity across the country has feed speculation among legal scholars as to what SCOTUS will do with the companion cases that were argued last month.  The consensus posits that SCOTUS will avoid a sweeping constitutional ruling along the lines of Roe v Wade and instead, will issue an opinion that the same-sex marriage issue is a matter to be decided on a state-by-state basis.

The SCOTUS term ends on June 20th; an opinion on the same-sex marriage issue is expected between now and then.

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