State Laws and Legislation

Rhode Island Marriage/Relationship Recognition Law

Licenses marriages for same-sex couples? No explicit prohibition.

Honors marriages of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions? No explicit prohibition.
The state attorney general issued a statement in February 2007 that stated “the office [of the attorney general]’s review of Rhode Island law suggests that Rhode Island would recognize any marriage validly performed in another state unless doing so would run contrary to the strong public policy of this state. Public policy can be determined by statute, legal precedent, and common law.” This is not a binding opinion and the attorney general noted that this question will most likely be answered by the courts. In December 2007, the Rhode Island Supreme Court issued a decision refusing to grant a divorce to a same-sex couple legally married in Massachusetts. The degree to which the marriage of same-sex couples are honored by the state vary widely and are still in flux.

Any form of statewide relationship recognition for same-sex couples? Yes.
In July 2011, the state Legislature passed a civil unions bill, which confers all state-level spousal rights for parties in a civil union. 

Prior to 2011, although Rhode Island did not have a statewide registry for same-sex couples, the Legislature had extended limited rights to same-sex couples. These rights included the right of the surviving domestic partner of a police officer, fire fighter or correctional officer to receive a death benefit and the right for health insurance to be offered (for purchase) to the domestic partner of a former employee [COBRA], the right to deduct the cost of insurance premiums for a domestic partner from your federal adjusted gross income for state tax purposes, and the right to make funeral arrangements for a domestic partner.

Citations: R.I. GEN. LAWS §15-3.1, 28-48-1, 36-12-4, 44-30-12, 45-49-4.3, 5-33.2-24.


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Updated: Wed, July 06, 2011 - 11:00:22