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New bills may impact same-sex couples in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, a couple may choose to dissolve their marriage with either a no-fault or a fault divorce. Generally, a no-fault divorce is one in which irreconcilable differences have caused the breakdown of the marriage that is irreversible or the couple has been living separate and apart without cohabitation for at least three years. A fault divorce means that the breakdown of the marriage involved impotency, adultery, drug or alcohol abuse or extreme cruelty among other things.

Rhode Island allows both fault and no-fault divorce, but it does not allow same sex couples to divorce in the state. Specifically, Rhode Island does not honor same-sex marriage. However, the laws may soon be changing. A House committee in Rhode Island will soon consider several bills related to same-sex marriage and divorce.

One bill would allow same-sex marriage in Rhode Island, recognize previously performed civil unions as marriages and recognize unions and marriages from other jurisdictions. The second bill will allow couples legally married in another jurisdiction to divorce in Rhode Island. The third bill would repeal last year's civil union's bill that allows certain organizations to use religion as an excuse to refuse service to couples who have a civil union.

There is controversy within the state regarding whether Rhode Island should recognize same-sex unions performed in other states. Rhode Island's Attorney General is of the opinion that since Rhode Island does not explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage, the state should recognize same-sex unions performed in other states. Adoption of these amendments would clarify some of the unclear family law issues that remain in Rhode Island.

Source:, "Rhode Island To Consider Marriage Equality, Divorce Bills," Igor Volsky, May 2, 2012

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