To our LGBT family members, friends, and neighbors: at long last, you are free to marry the person you love.“  With these words, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed the Rhode Island marriage equality bill into law on Thursday evening.

The signing ceremony, held on the front steps of the state capitol, was celebrated by several hundred Rhode Islanders who came to witness the birth of the 10th marriage equality state.  The first marriage equality bill was introduced into the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1997.

Same-sex couples may start marrying in Rhode Island on August 1, the day that the law goes into effect.  Check out the FAQ provided by Rhode Islanders United For Marriage for details.

After the law takes effect, nearly 50 million Americans will live in a marriage equality state, according to Freedom To Marry.

The House passed the bill in late January by an overwhelming majority of 51-19.  Last week the Senate passed a slightly amended version with a strongly bipartisan vote of 26-12, which the House voted today to confirm by an even wider margin than in January, 56-15.

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

Delaware is poised to become state number 11.  Delaware’s marriage equality bill (HB75) cleared the Senate Executive Committee on May 1 and is scheduled for a full Senate vote on Tuesday, May 7.  The House passed the bill on April 23.

Delaware Governor Jack Markell introduced the marriage equality bill in early April, and has promised to sign it into law.  “This is not about watching history happen,” he told a group of University of Delaware students last month.  “This is about making history and this is your opportunity.”

Equality Delaware invites folks committed to winning the freedom to marry next week to “click here to find out how you can help make history in Delaware: http://eqde.org/canvassing“.