And then there were 10.
Overcoming years of resistance, Rhode Island on Thursday became the 10th state in the country and the last in New England to approve same-sex marriage.
The measure passed a final vote in the legislature in the afternoon. Just before 7 p.m., Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent who had long advocated for its passage, signed it into law in a jubilant ceremony on the steps of the Statehouse in Providence, where hundreds of people, including many state and local officials, joined the celebration.
Rhode Island was New England’s sole holdout for many years – the legislative efforts began in earnest in 1997 – but this year, thanks in part to an aggressive push from Chafee, who discussed his efforts on the show last night, the support for equal marriage rights was simply too strong.
Once the law goes into effect in August, all seven Northeastern states – New York and all of New England – will permit same-sex couples to legally marry. Along with Iowa, Maryland, and the state of Washington, we’ve reached the point at which one fifth of the states are now on board with marriage equality.
And the list isn’t done. Efforts are also well underway in Delaware, Illinois, and Minnesota.
An enormous amount of blood, sweat, and tears were necessary to get us to this point, and it’s heartening to see milestones become more routine. It wasn’t long ago when equal marriage rights in the United States were considered a dream – a point Americans might someday reach, but a goal on a distant horizon. The early breakthroughs came largely through the judicial process, not the legislative one, with elected officials and voters too reluctant to advance the cause.
But with remarkable speed, victories have become far less elusive, and successes are coming through legislatures and ballot referenda. The arc of the moral universe is long, and slowly but surely, it’s clearly bending toward justice.