In response to a request from the state’s Commissioner of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch has issued a six-page legal opinion saying that the state will recognize marriages between couples of the same sex performed in Massachusetts.
“It’s terrific news for state employees who will receive the same benefits and protections for their families as their straight co-workers who married in Massachusetts or elsewhere. It’s our hope and expectation that other Rhode Island employers will follow suit,” said Michele Granda, staff attorney with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a New England organization that focuses on providing legal advice and representation in LGBT rights cases.
Granda was lead attorney in the Massachusetts lawsuit, Cote-Whitacre v. Department of Public Health, which made it possible for Rhode Island same-sex couples to marry in Massachusetts starting in October of 2006.
“We applaud Attorney General Lynch for refusing to make a “‘gay exception’ to well-established principles of law,” said Granda. “His leadership on this issue brings peace of mind to married couples and clear direction to their employers.”
In his letter, dated Feb. 20, Lynch said his decision was based on the “full faith and credit” clause of the United States Constitution. That clause, which orders each state to recognize legal contracts entered into in other states, was the basis for the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1969 decision overturning laws that banned interracial marriages.
“We advise the Board of Governors that it should accord marital status to its employees who were lawfully married in Massachusetts under the ruling of that state’s highest court in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health,” Lynch said in the letter.
Wendy Becker, who was a plaintiff in Cote-Whitacre, is a state employee who will be directly affected by the opinion. She and her partner, Mary Norton, married in Massachusetts Oct. 8.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 23, 2007