BARRINGTON — Last year songwriter Becky Chace of Barrington made national headlines when she spoke out against a Rhode Island bill to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.
The legislation was flawed, she said, because it included language that would allow religiously affiliated organizations — such as hospitals, schools and universities — to dismiss the rights given to gay couples in a civil union.
“Anybody could say, ‘Oh, we’re not going to recognize that because we don’t have to,’” the Associated Press quoted Ms. Chace as saying. “To me, it’s meaningless if that’s the case.”
The story was picked up by USA Today and many other publications across the country. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Lincoln Chafee in July 2011, with the controversial exemptions intact.
Despite the disappointment they felt over the Rhode Island law, Ms. Chace and her partner of eight years, Christy Bergeson, were still determined to be legally wed. Shortly after President Barack Obama endorsed same-sex marriage in May, they took the plunge.
“I just came home and said, ‘We’ve been together for eight years. Let’s just do this, because if we put it off we’re just going to keep putting it off and come up with an excuse why we don’t do it,’” said Ms. Chace.
They got their marriage license in Swansea and were wed in July at a friend’s house in that town. (Rhode Island recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, but does not conduct such ceremonies.)
“Then we came back here (to their Barrington home) and had a party with about 45 people. It was great,” she said.
Like many gay couples, however, they still hope Rhode Island — and the federal government — will one day offer full marriage equality for all.
“I have mixed emotions,” said Ms. Chace. “We still aren’t recognized federally, so until that happens it doesn’t really feel like it’s going to matter. I’m still going to file my taxes as a single person because Rhode Island has a law that says you can’t file one way for the state and one way for the feds. We have to file as singles.”
Still, she remembers how accepted she and Ms. Bergeson felt when they applied for their marriage license in Massachusetts.
“To go into Swansea Town Hall and be treated equally and get that marriage license, I can’t tell you … As a kid who grew up in the ’80s when nobody talked about gay anything, it felt cool and that there was progress,” said Ms. Chace.
“If in my lifetime the federal government or the Supreme Court says this is stupid — let’s just let it happen — I’ll be thrilled. I really think the amount of exposure it gets really affects the next generation of kids growing up who hopefully won’t be made to feel like they’re not the same as everybody else.”