The Rhode Island State Senate on Wednesday evening voted 21–16 in favor of a bill allowing civil unions for gay couples. The bill, which already passed in the state’s House of Representatives and which Governor Lincoln Chafee said he’s likely to sign into law, grants gay and lesbian couples most of the rights and benefits that Rhode Island provides married couples, but it’s been met with opposition from some gay-rights advocates, who say the bill is unacceptable because it allows religious organizations — including hospitals and universities — to refuse to recognize the unions, and it still establishes “second-class citizenry” for gays. The bill was offered as a compromise after Gordon Fox, the openly gay speaker of the Democrat-controlled House, said he couldn’t muster enough votes to pass a same-sex marriage bill. If signed by Governor Chafee, it’ll make Rhode Island the fifth state in the country to legalize civil unions. Rhode Island’s two closest neighbors, Connecticut and Massachusetts, allow gay couples to marry, as do nearby New Hampshire and Vermont.
Rhode Island Lawmakers Approve Civil Unions [NYT]
Rhode Island’s Senate OKs same-sex civil union bill [ThisJustIn/CNN]