LGBT rights in Rhode Island

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LGBT rights in Rhode Island
Map of USA RI.svg
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1998
Gender identity/expression Yes
Discrimination protections Yes, both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression
Family rights
Recognition of
Civil unions since 2011; Same-sex marriages since 2013
Adoption Yes

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Rhode Island have the same legal protections as heterosexuals. Rhode Island established two lots of major relationship recognition for same-sex couples - starting with civil unions for same-sex couples only since July 1, 2011. Then since August 1, 2013 with same-sex marriage.

Sexual activity[edit]

Sexual acts between consenting adults in private have been legal in Rhode Island since anti-sodomy statutes were repealed in 1998. State Representative Edith Ajello sponsored the repeal bill for the seventh time when the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed it in May 1998. After the Rhode Island Senate passed it on June 2, 1998, Governor Lincoln Almond signed it into law.[1][2][3]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Rhode Island allows marriage licenses to same-sex couples since August 1, 2013. On February 20, 2007, Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch issued an opinion holding that same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts would be recognized in Rhode Island. He said that "his interpretation permitted recognition of the marriages, although he acknowledged that it was just an opinion and did not have the force of law."[4] On May 14, 2012, Gov. Chafee issued an executive ordering directing state agencies to treat same-sex marriages performed out-of-state as the equivalent of marriage.[5] On September 21, 2012, the state's Division of Taxation, ruling in an estate tax case, announced it would treat couples in same-sex marriages or civil unions established in other jurisdictions as legally married, basing its decision on the state's civil unions law and the state's tradition of recognizing marriages validly performed elsewhere.[6]

Rhode Island has provided benefits to same-sex partners of state employees since 2001.[7]

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage was introduced in the legislature on January 11, 2011.[8] Governor Lincoln Chafee announced his support for it.[9] In May 2011, a bill to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples was introduced.[10] It passed the Rhode Island House by a vote of 62-11.[11] It passed the Senate on June 29 by a vote of 21 to 16.[12][13] Gov. Chafee signed the legislation on July 2, 2011 and the law was made effective from July 1, 2011.[14] As of January 2013, only 68 couples obtained civil union licenses.[15]

Legislation establishing same-sex marriage in Rhode Island was enacted in May 2013, effective August 1.[16] Since August 1, two persons who are parties to a civil union entered into before that date may convert their union into a marriage.[17]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

The Rhode Island Family Court routinely grants same sex couple adoptions and has been doing so since at least 1995. Couples need not reside in Rhode Island and may be adopting their own birth child, using a surrogate, or adopting a child already placed with them. A decree lists both partners as parents. After the adoption, the Rhode Island Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics will amend the birth certificate of a child born in Rhode Island to name both partners as parents. A birth certificate issued in Rhode Island carries the names of both parents, including same-sex parents.[18]

Discrimination protection[edit]

Rhode Island law has outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation since 1995 and on the basis of gender identity or expression since 2001 in employment, credit, housing and public accommodations.[19]

Hate crime laws[edit]

Rhode Island has a criminal statute covering acts of violence motivated by both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.[20]

Gender reassignment[edit]

Until October 23, 2014, the Rhode Island Department of Health only altered the gender designation on a person's birth certificate based on documentation of gender reassignment surgery. At that time, new regulations took effect that established that modifying a birth certificate required instead that a medical provider certify that the individual has undergone surgical and/or hormone treatment "or other treatment appropriate for the individual".[21]


  1. ^ "Rhode Island Moves to End Sodomy Ban". New York Times. May 10, 1998. 
  2. ^ New York Times: "Striking Down the Sodomy Laws," November 25, 1998, accessed June 29, 2011
  3. ^ Rhode Island Sodomy Laws
  4. ^ Zezima, Kate (February 22, 2007). "Rhode Island Steps Toward Recognizing Same-Sex Marriage". New York Times. Retrieved October 30, 2012. 
  5. ^ "RI recognizing out-of-state gay marriages". Fox News. May 14, 2012. Retrieved October 30, 2012. 
  6. ^ "RI Ruling on Taxes Will Bring Relief to Bereaved Spouses". GLAD. Retrieved October 30, 2012. 
  7. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures: "States offering benefits for same-sex partners of state employees". Retrieved April 16, 2011
  8. ^ State of Rhode Island General Assembly: "Act Act Relating to Domestic Relations: Persons Eligible to Marry". Retrieved March 11, 2011
  9. ^ Amy Rasmussen, "Chafee's election renews hope for R.I. gay marriage movement," November 11, 2010. Retrieved March 11, 2011
  10. ^ Advocate: "RI Committee to hold civil unions hearing," May 11, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2011
  11. ^ Providence Journal: Randal Edgar, "R.I. House approves civil unions," May 20, 2011, June 29, 2011
  12. ^ NPR: "Rhode Island Senate Passes Civil Unions Bill," June 29, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2011
  13. ^ New York Times: Timothy Williams, "Rhode Island Expected to Approve Civil Unions," June 29, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2011
  14. ^ Boston Globe: RI Gov. Chafee signs bill allowing civil unions," July 2, 2011. Retrieved July 2, 2011
  15. ^ Klepper, David (January 24, 2013). "Rhode Island House to vote on gay marriage". USA Today. Retrieved January 24, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Rhode Island", The Associated Press, printed on the website of CBS News, May 2, 2013
  17. ^ H 5015 Substitute B, General Assembly, State of Rhode Island, 2013
  18. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Rhode Island Adoption Law, accessed March 11, 2011
  19. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Rhode Island Non-Discrimination Law, accessed March 11, 2011
  20. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Rhode Island Hate Crimes Law, accessed March 11, 2011
  21. ^ Serven, R. (October 25, 2014). "Rhode Island changes procedures to benefit transgender people". Daily Kos. Retrieved October 28, 2014.