PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The political influence of the Catholic Church is waning in New England.
Rhode Island lawmakers, many of them Catholic Democrats, legalized same-sex marriage in early May, making Rhode Island the sixth and final New England state to allow gay couples to marry.
The vote followed years of aggressive lobbying from church leaders.
Experts say that gay marriage offers the latest example of a widening divide between the church hierarchy and its members that threatens to diminish the Catholic influence in American politics. Recent polls show that most American Catholics believe the church is out of touch with their views.
From Maine to California, church leaders have used the power of the pulpit and substantial financial resources to fight gay marriage.