With the signing of the state of Rhode Island’s gay marriage bill yesterday, around 50 million Americans now live in areas that have legalised same-sex marriage.

On Wednesday, the Rhode Island state House passed the legislation, which was quickly signed into law by Governor Lincoln Chafee that same day.

“We would not be where we are today without the Rhode Islanders who for decades have fought for tolerance and freedom over discrimination and division,” Chafee said at a signing ceremony on the steps of the Rhode Island State House.

“I am proud to say that now, at long last, you are free to marry the person you love,” he added.

The law comes into effect from August and makes the state the tenth in America in which gay and lesbian couples can legally marry.

“The unprecedented momentum for marriage across the country continues, with Rhode Island becoming first state of 2013 to say yes to marriage equality,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin.

“As the Supreme Court deliberates the fundamental right to marry the person you love, these historic and bipartisan victories keep mounting and prove the country is ready for marriage equality.”

The passage of marriage equality in Rhode Island comes as the US Supreme Court is expected to hand down decisions on two marriage-related cases by the end of June.

Hollingsworth v. Perry challenges the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage, and United States v. Windsor, challenges the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognising gay marriages in states where they are legal.

In addition to Rhode Island, same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington, as well as in the District of Columbia.

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