Rhode Island’s gay and lesbian community is weighing in on the Supreme Court ruling in favor of nation-wide same-sex marriage. Many see it as an affirmation of the state’s same-sex marriage law.
Sandra Richard joined the local chapter of the lesbian, gay and transgender advocacy group known as PFLAG back in 2010. Her daughter is transgender and married to a woman. At the time, Rhode Island was still three years away from same-sex marriage.
Rhode Island lawmakers voted to allow same–sex marriage in 2013, but Richard says the Supreme Court decision is still important.
“Love is love, marriage is marriage, and we should all be treated equally,” said Richard. You know it affects families across the United States.”
Richard believes shifting public opinion about same-sex marriage may have influenced the court.
However she adds there’s still work to be done to extend additional legal protections.
“There are a number of states across the country where people can still be fired because they’re lesbian or gay or transgender, so there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Local politicians are also commenting on the ruling.
Within a few hours of the announcement of the Supreme Court decision, Rhode Island’s entire Congressional delegation issued statements praising the ruling. Democratic Representative David Cicilline, one of several openly gay lawmakers in Congress, called it a victory “decades in the making.”
Senator Jack Reed said the ruling would carry more weight because it was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.
"This decision was very thoughtful," said Reed. "Justice Kennedy is somebody who’s very pragmatic. He has a reputation as a conservative, but he’s not ideological."
In Rhode Island, the fight over same-sex marriage began in the 1990’s. It was legalized in 2013 with strong support from then-governor Lincoln Chafee, along with former State Representative Gordon Fox, the first openly gay Rhode Island House Speaker.
Meanwhile, on the streets of Providence, many residents said they also support the decision.
"I feel like for the first time as an American that is gay, that I have been given the same rights as other Americans," said attorney Marissa Janton, who described traveling to Massachusetts to marry her wife a decade ago.
Darrel Perkins of Providence said he thinks the ruling on same-sex marriage is long overdue.
"Politicians I think were slower to pick up on it than our actual culture," Perkins said. "Our generation, 20 and 30-year-olds, we've seen it coming on the horizon for a while."
Critics, including some conservative and religious groups, say marriage is an issue that should be decided at the state level.
The Catholic Dioceses of Providence issued a strongly-worded statement condemning the decision.
"A thousand courts may rule otherwise, but the very notion of 'same-sex marriage' is morally wrong and a blatant rejection of God’s plan for the human family," wrote Bishop Thomas Tobin.
Tobin goes on to say given current trends "the Church must redouble its commitment to proclaim and defend authentic concepts of marriage and family as we have received them from God."
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