Rhode Island may soon join several other states that have already legalized same-sex marriage. Democratic state Representative Arthur Handy has announced that legislation to legalize marriage. Other states, including Minnesota and Illinois are also pushing to change the way family law looks by proposing legislation to legalize gay marriage.
Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont have already legalized same-sex marriage. If Rhode Island follows the lead of these states, New England will be the first of the U.S. Government's official Standard Federal Regions to legalize same-sex marriage across every state.
According to Handy, the bill has already been written and he just needs to gather co-sponsors. The bill, he says, contains language that protects religious groups from having to marry same-sex couples against their will. Supporters of the bill are feeling optimistic that it will pass, since both the General Assembly and the Senate are currently controlled by Democrats. Additionally, independent governor Lincoln Chafee is a marriage equality supporter.
Family law is constantly evolving, particularly when it comes to same-sex marriage. If same-sex marriage is legalized in a state, couples may choose to be legally married. This will affect their rights as parents, as well as their property rights. Same-sex couples will also be able to receive the same government benefits available to all married couples. This includes Social Security benefits, health care and unpaid leave to take care of a family member. Couples will also be able to get death and tax benefits that are available to married couples.
Unmarried couples may be able to contract for their property and taxes to be more like that of a married couple, but this takes significant time and expense. Marriage creates a legal framework in which these things happen automatically or with considerably more ease.
Source: Gay Star News, "Rhode Island marriage equality bill to be introduced Thursday," Andrew Potts, Jan. 2, 2013