In a move largely seen as a compromise over the rights that can be afforded to gay and lesbian couples, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee on Saturday signed into law a bill that legalizes civil unions, making his state the fifth in the nation to allow them.
The bill - which was signed just over a week after New York legalized same-sex marriage - will take effect later Saturday, according to the governor's spokesman Christian Vareika.
The law will provide same-sex couples with a host of new state tax breaks, health-care benefits and greater ease of inheritance.
Such unions are currently permitted in New Jersey and Illinois, and will be allowed in Delaware and Hawaii beginning January 1, 2012. California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada also allow for "comprehensive domestic partnerships," largely considered an equivalent to their civil union counterparts.FULL STORY