Rhode Island and Minnesota have become the 12th and 13th state to legalize same sex marriage. It became legal at 12:01 Thursday morning. Outside Providence City Hall was a hub of activity as gay couples sought licenses while outside, protesters on both sides of the issue picketed.
Zachary Marcus and Gary McDowell were surrounded by well-wishers as they emerged from Providence City Hall with their freshly minted marriage license in hand. They were the first couple in the capital city to get one. Marcus, a medical student at Brown University and McDowell, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, have been together two-and-a-half years and Marcus says they’re very excited about putting some legal protections around their relationship. “We got engaged six months ago,” says Marcus “and it wasn’t possible then to get married in Rhode Island so it’s exciting.” McDowell says he longs for the day when same sex marriages are part of the fabric of ordinary life. “ It’s so exciting to be here on this sort of festive occasion today,” says McDowell “but what will really make the change is when these occasions are no longer special in any way.” Also getting their license were Luis Astudillo, a teacher at Classical High School, and his partner of 12 years, Kent Stetson, a handbag designer. “We would have gotten married years ago if we could have,” says Stetson “and we thought in recognizing the tremendous amount of work that so many people have put into tirelessly for years to obtain these rights and equality. Why wait? Let’s get our rights as soon as they’re available to us.” Outside Providence City Hall four out-of-state anti-gay marriage protesters picketed. They were hugely outnumbered by gay marriage supporters. They were also drowned out --- first by music, then by the roar of motorcycle engines. Some same sex couples are getting married right away. A couple got married right after the Newport City Clerk’s office opened at 8:30. Others, like Dorcey Baker and Lisa Kesser, are waiting. They’ve been together 20 years, says Kesser. “Words cannot express,” says Kesser. “When I first came out it wasn’t a possibility. It wasn’t on the horizon. It wasn’t in the solar system.” Because of Rhode Island’s proximity to Massachusetts, which sanctioned same sex marriage years ago, gay and lesbian leaders in Rhode Island don’t expect a flood of applicants. Many couples are already married and their out of state unions will be recognized in Rhode Island. But from here on out .. people who love each other no longer need to leave the state to wed, regardless of their sexual orientation. Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? Please email us, we'd like to hear from you. firstname.lastname@example.org