Activists Waging Legislative Battles in R.I.
This tiny New England state has a good chance of becoming the tenth state to allow same-sex marriage. It has a Democratic majority, supportive governor, and good odds.
Momentum in Illinois, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Delaware
Marc Solomon, the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry says, “we’re getting faster and faster.” Solomon says the 2012 election, which voted in new pro-gay-rights lawmakers, highlighted the movement’s increasing political muscle.
Rhode Island Push
The push in Rhode Island is coming partly from the legislative leadership. House speaker Gordon Fox is gay and an advocate for marriage equality. The 47th Governor and former Senator from 1999 to 2007, Governor Lincoln Chafee has long been supportive of same-sex marriage. Fox has promised to help move a measure forward. The president of the state senate since 2008, Democrat M. Teresa Parva-Weed, has also promised to allow a committee vote if and when the house sends the bill over.
President Obama endorsed Rhode Island’s Marriage Equality Effort last week, as he done in his former home state of Illinois. On January 15, the State Legislature focused on same-sex marriage. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to review a proposed marriage equality bill. The Committee is expected to hear several hours of testimony.
Those Who Are Opposed To Popular Vote
Democrat State Senator Frank Ciccone suggested introducing a bill that would put marriage equaiity up to a statewide vote. However, Governor Chafee, the ex-Mayor of Warwick, says that legislators are elected to make such decisions. On January 10th, he said he’d veto the bill.
Not Everyone is In Favor
Providence Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin wrote an editorial saying that establishing marriage equality would be “immoral and unnecessary.” The Bishop wants to delay the vote on marriage equality also because as he points out, the Supreme Court may make the decision for us. The Reverend Bernard Healey told lawmakers that the Providence Diocese is concerned, Catholic schools and charitable organizations could be forced to change their employee benefit policies to reflect same-sex spouses of employees.
Outcome for Rhode Island
In a predominantly Catholic state, it’s not automatic that same-sex marriage will be a “shoo-in.” Rhode Island is the missing puzzle piece in New England’s same-sex marriage solidarity so this tiny state will have enormous impact.