Stephanie Storch and Emily Douglas. [All photos by Natalja Kent/Two Moon Photography]
Lincoln Chafee made history as he strode down the south steps of the State House on Thursday, May 2. Our Phoenix fact-checkers have yet to find another instance when the governor used a dance remix of Madonna's "Like a Prayer" as his entrance music.
There was other history made that afternoon, too, of course. With a few whisks of his pen in front of a cheering mass of onlookers, Chafee made Rhode Island the tenth state in the United States of America to legalize same-sex marriage.
It was the final step in what one state representative called a "legislative steeplechase" — a years-long journey that twisted and doubled back, meandering through committees, marathon testimony sessions, written and re-written bills, and endless lobbying campaigns on either side.
And then, with an uncanny swiftness, it became a law, sealed with "Chapel of Love" sung by the Providence Gay Men's Chorus and a front page Providence Journal photo of Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox kissing his long-time partner, Marcus, on the lips.
The law doesn't officially go into effect until August 1, which gives us a moment to pause before the rice and streamers fly to check in with some of the people whose lives changed that day at the State House. They are state senators, attorneys, hair stylists, physical trainers, former nuns, and retired French teachers. They come from Louisville and Burrillville, Silver Spring and South Providence. They are 23, 33, 42, 53, 65, and 72 years old. They grew up in strict Catholic or born-again Christian households.
They are Rhode Islanders who, for the first time in the state's history, will be legally allowed to marry within the state's boundaries.
Here are a few of their stories.
WHO Emily Douglas [left], 35 and Stephanie Storch [right], 33
WHERE Providence, via Louisville, KY (Emily) and Saratoga Springs, NY (Stephanie)
THE SHORT STORY These two Rhode Island transplants met at Scarborough Beach last summer. By November, they were engaged.
WHEN THE LAW PASSED "I had some of my friends on speakerphone because they were trying to stream from work," Emily says, "and I had my TV turned up as loud as possible and . . . all the senators were talking and then suddenly it was, 'Boom!' It went to the vote. And then it was over.
"And everybody was like 'What happened?!' And I [screamed], 'IT PASSSSED!' It was just a culmination of so many hopes. For our entire lives, it was a struggle for both of us to come out. To finally get a little bit of acceptance from the place [where] you live is pretty amazing."
BACHELORETTE PARTY? They know that their friends are planning a joint celebration, but details are murky. Stephanie is crossing her fingers for a Harry Potter theme.
WEDDING PLANS A picnic-style feast outdoors at Colt State Park, featuring pulled pork and watermelon. There will be bagpipes during the ceremony and karaoke during the reception.
THE HONEYMOON Two days at the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, followed five days in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.