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RI legislature OKs gay marriage bill; gov to sign

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- Rhode Island is joining nine other states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
 
By a vote of 56 to 15, the House gave final approval Thursday evening to legislation allowing same-sex weddings. Gov. Lincoln Chafee (CHAY'-fee) plans to sign the bill into law later Thursday. 
 
Hundreds are expected to gather at the Statehouse to celebrate the new law, which 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 Island 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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