Same-Sex Marriage | in R.I., a Day to Wed, Make History

Article excerpt

Rhode Island's status as the only New England state where same- sex couples cannot marry will fall into history Thursday as legislation allowing gay marriage takes effect and the first same- sex couples begin to hold weddings.

At least a few ceremonies are scheduled for Thursday, including one at Providence City Hall, another at Providence's Prospect Park and another that will see state Rep. Frank Ferri, D-Warwick, wed his husband, Tony Caparco, for a second time - this time in their home state.

"It's important to do it," the 59-year-old Ferri said. "It's what we've been advocating all these years."

More ceremonies are scheduled in the following days, weeks and months, as couples who in some cases have waited decades begin making plans to wed. The Rev. Eugene Dyszlewski, chairman of the Rhode Island Coalition for Marriage Equality and a minister at First Unitarian Church in Providence, said he knew of nine upcoming ceremonies - including the one scheduled for Thursday at Prospect Park, which he will officiate.

The historic change to the state's marriage laws, approved by lawmakers in May, adds Rhode Island to a growing list of states that allow same-sex marriage.

There were nine, plus the District of Columbia, at the start of the year. But there are now 13, and the battle is ongoing in states such as Illinois, where a same-sex marriage bill passed in the Senate only to stall in the House, and New Jersey, where lawmakers voted to legalize same-sex marriage only to see Gov. Chris Christie veto the legislation.

For same-sex couples, it is a struggle that centers on the ability to marry the one they love, as well as take advantage of rights and benefits that come with marriage, which can affect everything from tax returns to health insurance to wills.

Still, while some states have seen a flurry of marriage license applications and weddings after legalizing same-sex marriage - Massachusetts issued more than 1,000 on the first day - supporters in Rhode Island say the response here may be lighter. In Providence, for instance, six gay couples - five male couples and one female couple - had successfully pre-registered for marriage licenses before Wednesday afternoon's close. …