Love has made New England complete!  Today the Rhode Island Senate passed the marriage equality bill (S 38 sub A), making Rhode Island the 10th state nationally and the last in New England to allow all couples the freedom to marry.

The bill was passed by a strongly bipartisan, overwhelming majority of 26-12.

An amendment offered by Sen. Frank Ciccone to send the bill to the voters as a referendum was handily defeated 28-10.

The House passed a companion bill (H 5015) on January 24 on a 51-19 vote.

The version of the bill passed by the Senate today will be sent to the House for confirmation votes, something House Speaker Gordon D. Fox told Providence Journal could happen quickly enough for the bill to get to the governor’s desk “as early as next week”.

Governor Lincoln Chafee strongly supports marriage equality and has stated that “I will be proud to sign this important legislation when it reaches my desk.”

Before and during the debate, several senators commended marriage equality opponent Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed (D – Newport, Jamestown) for allowing the bill to move through the legislative process unhindered.  “I will not vote for it,” she told the Associated Press, “but I have committed to having a full, fair and open debate.”

The first marriage equality bill was introduced into the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1997.

In addition to Rhode Island, marriage equality has been realized in Massachusetts (2004), Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), Vermont (2009), New Hampshire (2009), New York (2011), Washington (2012), Maryland (2012), Maine (2012), as well as in the District of Columbia (2009) and 3 tribal jurisdictions.

Yesterday France became the 14th country to legalize same-sex marriage, joining the Netherlands (2001; special municipality of Saba, 2012), Belgium (2003), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Spain (2005), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Argentina (2010), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010), Denmark (2012), Uruguay (2013) and New Zealand (2013).