LGBT rights in Rhode Island
Map of USA RI.svg
StatusLegal since 1998
Gender identityTransgender people allowed to change legal gender
Discrimination protectionsProtections for sexual orientation and gender identity or expression
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsCivil unions since 2011;
Same-sex marriages since 2013
AdoptionSame-sex couples allowed to adopt

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Rhode Island enjoy the same legal rights as non-LGBT people. Rhode Island established two types of major relationship recognition for same-sex couples, starting with civil unions on July 1, 2011, and then on August 1, 2013 with same-sex marriage. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is outlawed in the state in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations. 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] Opinion polls have shown that a large majority of Rhode Islanders support same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.[2] 2017 polling from the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 78% of Rhode Island respondents supported same-sex marriage.

History and legality of same-sex sexual activity

In 1647, then the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, male sodomy was made a capital offense. The law was reworded in 1663 and 1729, but the death penalty remained. No prosecutions are known to have occurred. In 1798, the state again reworded the law, lightening the penalty for a first offense, reading that any person convicted of sodomy shall "be carried to the gallows in a cart, and set upon the said gallows, for a space of time not exceeding four hours, and thence to the common gaol, there to be confined for a term not exceeding three years, and shall be grievously fined at the discretion of the Court". A second offense would result in death. The death penalty was removed as a penalty in 1844; punishment was set at 1 to 12 years' imprisonment. This was raised to 7 to 20 years' imprisonment in 1881.[3]

The first recorded sodomy case occurred in 1962; in State v. Milne, the Rhode Island Supreme Court held that fellatio (oral sex) constituted an "abominable and detestable crime against nature". In 1973, the Commission on Jurisprudence of the Future recommended amending state law to remove the sodomy provisions, but this was rejected by the Rhode Island General Assembly. In State v. Levitt in 1977, the state Supreme Court rejected arguments that the sodomy law was unconstitutionally vague, and in 1980 in State v. Santos rejected claims that the law was a breach of privacy rights. In State v. McParlin in 1980, the court held that cunnilingus was also a violation of the sodomy statute. The Supreme Court again upheld the law as constitutional in 1995 in State v. Lopes. At that time, the law applied to consensual and non-consensual acts, whether between heterosexual or homosexual partners, and whether conducted in private or public.[3]

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.[4][5][6]

In November 2019, Governor Gina Raimondo signed a bill into law whereby LGBT veterans who received an dishonorable discharge under Don't Ask, Don't Tell can have that discharge changed, and ensures that those veterans have access to veteran benefits.[7][8]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Main article: Same-sex marriage in Rhode Island

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."[9] On May 14, 2012, Governor Lincoln Chafee issued an executive order directing state agencies to treat same-sex marriages performed out-of-state as the equivalent of marriage.[10] 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 union law and the state's tradition of recognizing marriages validly performed elsewhere.[11]

Rhode Island has provided benefits to same-sex partners of state employees since 2001.[12]

A bill to legalize same-sex marriage was introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly on January 11, 2011.[13] Governor Lincoln Chafee announced his support.[14] In May 2011, a bill to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples was introduced.[15] It passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 62–11,[16] and passed the Senate on June 29 by a vote of 21 to 16.[17][18] Governor Chafee signed the legislation on July 2, 2011 and the law was made effective from July 1, 2011.[19] By January 2013, only 68 couples had obtained civil union licenses.[20]

Legislation establishing same-sex marriage in Rhode Island was enacted in May 2013, effective August 1.[21] Since August 1, two persons who are parties to a civil union entered into before that date may convert their union into a marriage.[22]

Adoption and parenting

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.[23]

Lesbian couples have access to in vitro fertilization. State law recognizes the non-genetic, non-gestational mother as a legal parent to a child born via donor insemination.[24] Surrogacy is neither prohibited nor expressly permitted in Rhode Island. Whether a surrogacy contract, gestational or traditional, will be recognized depends on the Rhode Island Family Court. Based on recent decisions from said court, the state may grant parentage declarations before birth to married couples, unmarried couples and individuals. Same-sex couples are treated in the same manner as opposite-sex couples.[25]

In July 2020, the General Assembly amended state parentage laws to insure that unmarried couples and same-sex couples do not require going to court to obtain legal rights to their child. Governor Gina Raimondo, who signed the bill into law, said, "No parent should have to jump through hoops to receive legal recognition because of their sexual orientation or the circumstances of their child's birth. The Rhode Island Uniform Parentage Act enshrines into law our belief in the validity of all parths to parenthood." The law went into effect on January 1, 2021.[26][27] Previously, the state required the non-biological mother in a lesbian couple to complete a traditional adoption process. The new law insures that the couple need not go to court or go through adoption home study, and the non-biological mother is automatically recognized as a legal parent, akin to the father in an opposite-sex couple. The state's child protective services agency expressed support for the new law, stating that the previous requirement of home study for same-sex couples having to adopt their own children was a "waste of the department's resources".

Discrimination protections

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.[28]

In July 2021, two bills passed the Rhode Island General Assembly regarding "pay disclosure and discrimination" within employment and repealing the archaic 1995 "housing with 3 occupiers or less loophole exemptions" - based on an individual's sexual orientation and gender identity. The Governor of Rhode Island signed the two bills into law - becoming legally effective from January 1, 2023.[29][30][31]

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 public schools.[32]

Hate crime law

Rhode Island has a criminal statute covering hate crimes motivated by both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.[33] The law provides penalty enhancements for the commission of a crime motivated by the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, among other categories.

Gay panic defense

In June 2018, a bill to repeal the gay and trans panic defense passed the Rhode Island General Assembly by a vote of 68–2 in the House and 27–0 in the Senate. Governor Gina Raimondo signed the bill into law a month later, and it went into effect immediately.[34][35][36]

Conversion therapy

See also: List of U.S. jurisdictions banning conversion therapy

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 for such practices by the state and its political subdivisions.[37] 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).[38][39] On May 30, the House approved the bill in a unanimous 69–0 vote, with six members not voting.[40][41][42] In June 2017, the Rhode Island Senate passed the legislation by a unanimous vote of 29–0 with 1 absent from the chamber floor. The bill had to go back to the House due to a technical amendment, which was passed again unanimously 62–0. On July 19, 2017, Governor Gina Raimondo signed the bill into law and it went into effect immediately.[43][44]

Transgender rights

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 completing a "Birth Certificate Request Form" and submitting an affidavit from a physician, certified nurse practitioner or physician's assistant confirming the applicant's transgender status.[45][46] The Department of Motor Vehicles will issue an updated driver's license with a corrected gender marker upon receipt of a completed "Gender Designation Form" signed by the applicant.

In June 2018, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed a bill to ensure that transgender people are correctly recorded on death certificates. The bill was later signed into law by Governor Gina Raimondo and went into effect immediately.[47][48][49][50]

In August 2019, the Department of Health and the Department of Motor Vehicles announced that from July 2020 driver's licenses and birth certificates would include a third gender option (alongside "male" and "female"), known as "X".[51]

Gender-neutral bathrooms

Effective since January 1, 2022 Rhode Island legally allows gender-neutral bathrooms for single occupancy toilets - under a bill the Governor of Rhode Island signed into law in July 2021. California, New York State, Illinois and New Mexico have similar laws implemented.[52]

Public opinion

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that 78% of Rhode Island residents supported same-sex marriage, while 17% were opposed and 5% were unsure.[53]

Public opinion for LGBT anti-discrimination laws in Rhode Island
Poll source Date(s)
administered
Sample
size
Margin of
error
% support % opposition % no opinion
Public Religion Research Institute January 2-December 30, 2019 163 ? 76% 17% 7%
Public Religion Research Institute January 3-December 30, 2018 164 ? 73% 23% 4%
Public Religion Research Institute April 5-December 23, 2017 222 ? 75% 19% 6%
Public Religion Research Institute April 29, 2015-January 7, 2016 279 ? 84% 15% 1%

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal
Yes
(Since 1998)
Equal age of consent (16)
Yes
Anti-discrimination laws for sexual orientation
Yes
(Since 1995)
Anti-discrimination laws for gender identity
Yes
(Since 2011)
LGBT anti-bullying law in schools and colleges
Yes
Same-sex marriage
Yes
(Since 2013)
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. civil union)
Yes
(Since 2011)
Joint and stepchild adoption by same-sex couples
Yes
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people allowed to serve openly in the military
Yes
(Since 2011)
Transgender people allowed to serve openly in the military
Yes
(Since 2021)[54]
Intersex people allowed to serve openly in the military
X
(Current DoD policy bans "hermaphrodites" from serving or enlisting in the military)[55]
Right to change legal gender
Yes
Gender-neutral bathroom laws implemented
Yes
(Since 2022)[56]
Third gender option
Yes
(Since 2020)[57]
Conversion therapy banned on minors
Yes
(Since 2017)
Gay and trans panic defense banned
Yes
(Since 2018)
Access to IVF for lesbian couples
Yes
Surrogacy arrangements legal for gay male couples
Yes
MSMs allowed to donate blood
Yes
/
No
(Since 2020; 3-month deferral period)[58]

References

  1. ^ "The best and worst states for LGBT equality". MSNBC.
  2. ^ The American Values Atlas: Rhode Island
  3. ^ a b "The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States - Rhode Island". www.glapn.org.
  4. ^ "Rhode Island Moves to End Sodomy Ban". New York Times. May 10, 1998.
  5. ^ New York Times: "Striking Down the Sodomy Laws," November 25, 1998, accessed June 29, 2011
  6. ^ Rhode Island Sodomy Laws
  7. ^ Gawronski, Quinn (November 11, 2019). "Rhode Islands governor signs bill to help gay veterans get benefits". NBC News.
  8. ^ Villarreal, Daniel (November 13, 2019). "Rhode Island & New York restore military benefits to LGBTQ veterans". LGBTQ Nation.
  9. ^ Zezima, Kate (February 22, 2007). "Rhode Island Steps Toward Recognizing Same-Sex Marriage". New York Times. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  10. ^ "RI recognizing out-of-state gay marriages". Fox News. May 14, 2012. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  11. ^ "RI Ruling on Taxes Will Bring Relief to Bereaved Spouses". GLAD. Archived from the original on April 8, 2013. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  12. ^ National Conference of State Legislatures: "States offering benefits for same-sex partners of state employees". Retrieved April 16, 2011
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ Amy Rasmussen, "Chafee's election renews hope for R.I. gay marriage movement," November 11, 2010. Retrieved March 11, 2011
  15. ^ Advocate: "RI Committee to hold civil unions hearing," May 11, 2011 Archived May 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved June 29, 2011
  16. ^ Providence Journal: Randal Edgar, "R.I. House approves civil unions," May 20, 2011, June 29, 2011
  17. ^ NPR: "Rhode Island Senate Passes Civil Unions Bill," June 29, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2011
  18. ^ New York Times: Timothy Williams, "Rhode Island Expected to Approve Civil Unions," June 29, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2011
  19. ^ Boston Globe: RI Gov. Chafee signs bill allowing civil unions," July 2, 2011. Retrieved July 2, 2011
  20. ^ Klepper, David (January 24, 2013). "Rhode Island House to vote on gay marriage". USA Today. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
  21. ^ "Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Rhode Island", The Associated Press, printed on the website of CBS News, May 2, 2013
  22. ^ H 5015 Substitute B, General Assembly, State of Rhode Island, 2013
  23. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Rhode Island Adoption Law Archived 2012-07-25 at the Wayback Machine, accessed March 11, 2011
  24. ^ "Rhode Island's equality profile". Movement Advancement Project.
  25. ^ "What You Need to Know About Surrogacy in Rhode Island". American Surrogacy.
  26. ^ "Gov. Raimondo signs parentage bill into law". NBC 10 News. June 22, 2020.
  27. ^ Trachman, Ellen (July 22, 2020). "Rhode Island Parentage Laws Join Current Century. Finally". Above The Law.
  28. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Rhode Island Non-Discrimination Law Archived 2012-03-11 at the Wayback Machine, accessed March 11, 2011
  29. ^ "RI pay equity protections for race, age, gender or religion signed into law".
  30. ^ "Housing discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Rhode Islanders expanded". 28 June 2021.
  31. ^ "General Assembly Approves Budget, Slate of Bills to End Session". 2 July 2021.
  32. ^ Rhode Island Anti-Bullying Laws & Policies
  33. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Rhode Island Hate Crimes Law Archived 2014-04-08 at the Wayback Machine, accessed March 11, 2011
  34. ^ H7066
  35. ^ S3014
  36. ^ Gregg, Katherine (22 May 2018). "R.I. House votes to end 'gay or trans panic' defense". Providence Journal. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  37. ^ H 5277
  38. ^ H 5277 SUBSTITUTE A
  39. ^ HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CALENDAR
  40. ^ House approves ban on ‘conversion therapy’ for children
  41. ^ R.I. House OKs ban of ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBT youth
  42. ^ Rhode Island House Votes to Ban Gay Conversion Therapy
  43. ^ Rhode Island bans ex-gay conversion therapy for minors
  44. ^ Rhode Island Governor Signs Bill Into Law Protecting LGBTQ Youth From Harmful Conversion Therapy
  45. ^ Rhode Island, National Center for Transgender Equality
  46. ^ Serven, R. (October 25, 2014). "Rhode Island changes procedures to benefit transgender people". Daily Kos. Retrieved October 28, 2014.
  47. ^ S2614
  48. ^ H7765
  49. ^ Anderson, Patrick (July 1, 2018). "After flurry of R.I. bill signings, some you might have missed". The Providence Journal.
  50. ^ Persad, Xavier (June 22, 2018). "Rhode Island Legislature passes bill to ensure death certificate accuracy". Human Rights Campaign.
  51. ^ "Rhode Island to add gender-neutral option 'X' for licenses". WSBT. Providence. August 8, 2019.
  52. ^ "Bills creating gender-neutral bathrooms, preventing housing discrimination become law in RI". 28 July 2021.
  53. ^ Consulting, Epicenter. "PRRI – American Values Atlas". ava.prri.org.
  54. ^ Baldor, Lolita; Miller, Zeke (January 25, 2021). "Biden reverses Trump ban on transgender people in military". Associated Press.
  55. ^ "Medical Conditions That Can Keep You From Joining the Military". Military.com. 10 May 2021.
  56. ^ "Bills creating gender-neutral bathrooms, preventing housing discrimination become law in RI". 28 July 2021.
  57. ^ "Rhode Island driver's licenses can now be gender neutral". AP News. June 30, 2020.
  58. ^ McNamara, Audrey (April 2, 2020). "FDA eases blood donation requirements for gay men amid "urgent" shortage". CBS News.