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Rhode Island Senate approves same-sex marriage bill

The Rhode Island Senate voted 26 to 12 [press release] Wednesday in favor of a bill [S 0038, PDF] that would legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder]. The House passed its own version of the bill [JURIST report] in January, but must now vote on Senate amendments. A vote is expected [CNN report] as early as next week. Governor Lincoln Chafee, who last year signed an executive order granting recognition to same-sex marriages [JURIST report] performed outside of Rhode Island, has announced his support of the legislation. Rhode Island is currently the only state in New England that has not legalized same-sex marriage, and previous attempts to legalize same-sex marriage in the predominantly Catholic state have been unsuccessful.

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in nine states, as well as the District of Columbia. Last month, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two same-sex marriage cases. The first case, Hollingsworth v. Perry [JURIST report], examines the validity of Proposition 8 [JURIST news archive], a California referendum that revoked same-sex marriage rights. In the second case, United States v. Windsor [JURIST report], the court will examine the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive]. The court granted certiorari [JURIST report] in the two cases in December. Both cases could have an important impact on the ongoing same-sex marriage controversy in the US.

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