Less than a week after New York state legalized same-sex marriage, Rhode Island voted in favor of a bill to permit civil unions between gay and lesbian couples. If signed, the state will become the fifth state in the country to permit civil unions.

The measure, which was voted in the senate 21-16, is said to be a compromise intended to provide gay and lesbian couples with added rights and benefits, such as state tax breaks, health-care benefits and inheritance. Gov. Lincoln Chafee is expected to sign the bill into law. Once signed, it will go into effect on July 1.

Civil unions are currently permitted in New Jersey and Illinois, and will be allowed in Delaware and Hawaii beginning January 1, 2012.

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