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Rhode Island joins states that allow gay marriage

Overcoming years of resistance, Rhode Island on Thursday became the 10th state in the country and the last in New England to approve same-sex marriage.

The measure passed a final vote in the Legislature in the afternoon. Just before 7 p.m., Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent who had long advocated for its passage, signed it into law in a jubilant ceremony on the steps of the Statehouse in Providence, where hundreds of people, including many state and local officials, joined the celebration.

“I know that you have been waiting for this day to come,” Chafee said at the celebration. “I know that you have loved ones who dreamed this would happen and did not live to see it. But I am proud to say that now, at long last, you are free to marry the person you love.”

Same-sex unions will be legal in the state starting Aug. 1.

Approval in Rhode Island followed a 16-year struggle in the heavily Roman Catholic state, with intense opposition from clerics and many Republicans. But in a sign of the changing times, all five Republicans in the 38-member state Senate supported the measure — the only time in any state where the entire caucus of either party has approved such a measure unanimously — making Rhode Island the latest indication of growing acceptance of same-sex marriage across the country.

Delaware is likely to be next, perhaps as soon as next week. Illinois and Minnesota are also on track for passage.

—Katharine Q. Seelye, The New York Times

US s

Suicide rates among middle-age Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription pain killers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm. More people now die of suicide than car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings in the May 3 issue of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Suicide has typically been viewed as a problem of teenagers and the elderly, and the surge in suicide rates among middle-age Americans is surprising.

From 1999 to 2010, the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent, to 17.6 deaths per 100,000 population, up from 13.7. Although suicide rates are growing among both middle-age men and women, far more men take their own lives. The suicide rate for middle-age men was 27.3 deaths per 100,000, while for women it was 8.1 deaths per 100,000.

—Tara Parker-pope, The New York Times

Avoiding controversy, Obama meets with Mexico’s new leader

MEXICO CITY — U.S. President Barack Obama and president Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico labored Thursday to avoid engaging each other on the two most sensitive and contentious issues between their two countries: immigration reform in the United States and Mexican efforts to confront drug violence.

In an hourlong news conference after a private meeting, Obama and Pena Nieto repeatedly sought to shift their public conversation away from security and border issues that have long dominated such high-level visits, to focus instead on the vast economic relationship between the two nations.

A joint communique between the two leaders mentioned security cooperation only at the very end of a lengthy discussion of commercial and educational initiatives. During the news conference, both leaders waved aside reports that cross-border ties between security agencies were unraveling.

“We will interact with them in ways that are appropriate,” Obama said.

—Michael D. Shear and Randal C. Archibold,
The New York Times