LGBT rights in Rhode Island

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Map of USA RI.svg
StatusLegal since 1998
Gender identityYes
Discrimination protectionsYes, both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsCivil unions since 2011;
Same-sex marriages since 2013

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 since July 1, 2011, and then since August 1, 2013 with same-sex marriage. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is outlawed in the state. In addition, conversion therapy on minors has been banned since 2017.

Rhode Island is frequently referred to as one of the United States' most LGBT-friendly states.[1] A large majority of Rhode Islanders support same-sex marriage.[2]

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults in private have been legal in Rhode Island since anti-sodomy statutes were repealed in 1998.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.[3][4][5]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Rhode Island legalized same-sex marriage on 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."[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

Rhode Island has provided benefits to same-sex partners of state employees since 2001.[9]

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage was introduced in the Legislature on January 11, 2011.[10] Governor Lincoln Chafee announced his support for it.[11] In May 2011, a bill to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples was introduced.[12] It passed the Rhode Island House by a vote of 62-11.[13] It passed the Senate on June 29 by a vote of 21 to 16.[14][15] Governor Chafee signed the legislation on July 2, 2011 and the law was made effective from July 1, 2011.[16] As of January 2013, only 68 couples obtained civil union licenses.[17]

Legislation establishing same-sex marriage in Rhode Island was enacted in May 2013, effective August 1.[18] Since August 1, two persons who are parties to a civil union entered into before that date may convert their union into a marriage.[19]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

The Rhode Island Family Court routinely grants same-sex 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.[20]

Discrimination protections[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.[21]

Moreover, the state's anti-bullying law prohibits bullying on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and mental, physical and sensory disability. The law also explicitly includes cyberbullying and harassment, and applies to all schools approved by the state Department of Education.[22]

Hate crime law[edit]

Rhode Island has a criminal statute covering crimes motivated by both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.[23]

Gay panic defense[edit]

In June 2018, a bill to repeal the gay and trans panic defense passed the Rhode Island General Assembly (House vote 68–2 passed and Senate voice vote 27-0 passed). The Governor signed the bill into law a month later in July 2018. The law went into effect immediately.[24][25][26]

Conversion therapy[edit]

On January 27, 2017, state representatives Edith Ajello, Joseph McNamara, Susan Donovan, J. Aaron Regunberg and Moira Walsh introduced a bill (H 5277) to prohibit conversion therapy on minors, and ban funding such practice by the state and its political subdivisions.[27] On May 24, the House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare recommended indefinite postponement of the original bill and passage of its substitute (H 5277 Substitute A).[28][29] On May 30, the House approved the bill in a unanimous 69-0 vote, with six members not voting.[30][31][32] In June 2017, the Rhode Island Senate passed a similar bill to the house bill by a unanimous vote of 29-0 with 1 absent from the chamber floor. The bill had to go back to the Rhode Island House of Representatives due to a technical amendment, which was passed again unanimously 62-0. On July 19, 2017, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed the bill into law and it went into effect immediately.[33][34]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

Previously, the Rhode Island Department of Health only altered the gender designation on a person's birth certificate based on documentation of sex reassignment surgery. On October 23, 2014, new regulations took effect, which established that modifying a birth certificate requires instead that a medical provider certify that the individual intends to change gender.[35][36]

In June 2018, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a bill to recognise transgender people on death certificates. The bill was later signed into law by the Governor and went into effect immediately.[37][38][39][40]

In August 2019, the Governor of Rhode Island Gina Raimondo as well as both the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles announces drivers licenses will roll out sometime from July 2020 includes a third gender X option (alongside male and female).[41]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1998)
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes
Same-sex marriage Yes (Since 2013)
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. civil union) Yes (Since 2011)
Single LGBT individuals may adopt Yes
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples Yes
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes
LGBT anti-bullying law in schools and colleges Yes
Third gender option No
Intersex minors protected from invasive surgical procedures No
Lesbians, gays and bisexuals allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2011)
Transgender people allowed to serve openly in the military X
Conversion therapy banned on minors Yes (Since 2017)
Gay and trans panic defense banned Yes (2018)
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
LGBT-inclusive sex education required to be taught in schools No
Surrogacy arrangements legal for gay male couples No
Right to change legal gender Yes
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes/No (1 year deferral period)


  1. ^ "The best and worst states for LGBT equality".
  2. ^ The American Values Atlas: Rhode Island
  3. ^ "Rhode Island Moves to End Sodomy Ban". New York Times. May 10, 1998.
  4. ^ New York Times: "Striking Down the Sodomy Laws," November 25, 1998, accessed June 29, 2011
  5. ^ Rhode Island Sodomy Laws
  6. ^ Zezima, Kate (February 22, 2007). "Rhode Island Steps Toward Recognizing Same-Sex Marriage". New York Times. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  7. ^ "RI recognizing out-of-state gay marriages". Fox News. May 14, 2012. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  8. ^ "RI Ruling on Taxes Will Bring Relief to Bereaved Spouses". GLAD. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  9. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures: "States offering benefits for same-sex partners of state employees". Retrieved April 16, 2011
  10. ^ State of Rhode Island General Assembly: "Act Act Relating to Domestic Relations: Persons Eligible to Marry" Archived 2011-02-21 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved March 11, 2011
  11. ^ Amy Rasmussen, "Chafee's election renews hope for R.I. gay marriage movement," November 11, 2010. Retrieved March 11, 2011
  12. ^ Advocate: "RI Committee to hold civil unions hearing," May 11, 2011 Archived May 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved June 29, 2011
  13. ^ Providence Journal: Randal Edgar, "R.I. House approves civil unions," May 20, 2011, June 29, 2011
  14. ^ NPR: "Rhode Island Senate Passes Civil Unions Bill," June 29, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2011
  15. ^ New York Times: Timothy Williams, "Rhode Island Expected to Approve Civil Unions," June 29, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2011
  16. ^ Boston Globe: RI Gov. Chafee signs bill allowing civil unions," July 2, 2011. Retrieved July 2, 2011
  17. ^ Klepper, David (January 24, 2013). "Rhode Island House to vote on gay marriage". USA Today. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
  18. ^ "Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Rhode Island", The Associated Press, printed on the website of CBS News, May 2, 2013
  19. ^ H 5015 Substitute B, General Assembly, State of Rhode Island, 2013
  20. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Rhode Island Adoption Law Archived 2012-07-25 at the Wayback Machine, accessed March 11, 2011
  21. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Rhode Island Non-Discrimination Law Archived 2012-03-11 at the Wayback Machine, accessed March 11, 2011
  22. ^ Rhode Island Anti-Bullying Laws & Policies
  23. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Rhode Island Hate Crimes Law Archived 2014-04-08 at the Wayback Machine, accessed March 11, 2011
  24. ^ H7066
  25. ^ S3014
  26. ^ Gregg, Katherine (22 May 2018). "R.I. House votes to end 'gay or trans panic' defense". Providence Journal. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  27. ^ H 5277
  28. ^ H 5277 SUBSTITUTE A
  30. ^ House approves ban on ‘conversion therapy’ for children
  31. ^ R.I. House OKs ban of ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBT youth
  32. ^ Rhode Island House Votes to Ban Gay Conversion Therapy
  33. ^ Rhode Island bans ex-gay conversion therapy for minors
  34. ^ Rhode Island Governor Signs Bill Into Law Protecting LGBTQ Youth From Harmful Conversion Therapy
  35. ^ Rhode Island, National Center for Transgender Equality
  36. ^ Serven, R. (October 25, 2014). "Rhode Island changes procedures to benefit transgender people". Daily Kos. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  37. ^ S2614
  38. ^ H7765
  39. ^ Anderson, Patrick (July 1, 2018). "After flurry of R.I. bill signings, some you might have missed". The Providence Journal.
  40. ^ Persad, Xavier (June 22, 2018). "Rhode Island Legislature passes bill to ensure death certificate accuracy". Human Rights Campaign.
  41. ^ [1]