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Rhode Island to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Rhode Island is joining nine other states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
   Gov. Lincoln Chafee plans to sign gay marriage legislation into law Thursday following a final procedural vote in the state's General Assembly.
   Hundreds are expected to gather at the Statehouse to celebrate the new law, which has already passed the House and Senate once.
   The other five New England states already have gay marriage, but bills that would have changed marriage laws in heavily Catholic Rhode sputtered for nearly 20 years until this year. More gay marriage supporters were elected to the legislature last fall, and advocates mounted an aggressive lobbying campaign to pressure undecided lawmakers.
   The first weddings could occur Aug. 1, when the new law takes effect.

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