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R.I. to join rest of New England when gay marriage law takes effect Thursday

R.I. to join rest of New England when gay marriage law takes effect Thursday

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Federico Santi and John Gacher have been a couple for four decades, so they plan to waste little time when Rhode Island joins the rest of New England in extending marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples on Thursday.

They plan to show up early at Newport City Hall to complete the paperwork to turn their civil union into a marriage – just don’t expect an extravagant ceremony.

Charles Krupa, AP
R.I. Gov. Lincoln Chafee holds up the gay marriage bill after signing it into law outside the State House in Providence, R.I., Thursday, May 2, 2013. The law takes effect Aug. 1.

“After living together for 41 years, we don’t have anything to prove,” Santi told The Associated Press. “It’s like going down and getting a driver’s license.”

Town and city clerks around the nation’s smallest state are preparing to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples for the first time Thursday morning. A new gay marriage law in Minnesota takes effect the same day. The two states bring the number of states allowing same-sex marriage to 13.

States like Massachusetts and California saw long lines and scores of weddings on the day gay marriages began. But with gay marriage already the law in the rest of New England, town clerks and advocates who fought for the new law predict a relatively calm day.

Ray Sullivan, campaign director for Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, said many couples plan to obtain marriage licenses for weddings later in the year while others are waiting until next year.

“I don’t expect a ton of weddings to pop up tomorrow,” Sullivan said Wednesday. “Because of our proximity to states that have had the freedom to marry – Massachusetts and Connecticut – we have a large number of couples that are already married.”

The state’s new law will automatically recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

At least one high-profile wedding is planned to mark the new law: state Rep. Frank Ferri, D-Warwick, got into politics after being an early advocate for same-sex marriage. He and longtime partner Tony Caparco were married in Canada in 2006, but plan a second w edding Thursday. House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is gay, plans to preside over the ceremony in front of hundreds of invited guests.

Karen Yetter and Karin Marchessault plan to wait until February to get married – on the 14th anniversary of their relationship. The North Providence women considered getting married in another state but decided to wed in Rhode Island when the law passed this year. They plan a ceremony with about 120 guests.

“We didn’t want to give in and do it somewhere else,” Yetter said. “Now we’re finally going to get the things we fought so hard for. We’re about to send out the save-the-dates.”

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