Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes Committee Unanimously

The bill is headed to the full House of Representatives on Thursday.

STATE HOUSE – The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to recommend passage of legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Rhode Island yesterday, sending the bill to the full House of Representatives.

A vote is expected Thursday in the House, where 42 of the 75 members signed on as sponsors of the bill, including House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, who pledged to make its passage a priority this year.

The vote marks the first time the bill has been voted out of a committee in either of Rhode Island’s legislative chambers, paving the way for what will also be the first floor vote by either of the chambers. The legislation has been introduced annually in some form since 1997.

Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), who has been the bill’s primary sponsor since he joined the House in 2003, said it was very gratifying to see the bill move forward for the first time.

“It’s just overwhelming to see a unanimous ‘yes’ vote on marriage equality by a panel of elected officials in Rhode Island. This is a historic moment when our state is at last turning toward acceptance and equality of all people. So many Rhode Islanders have been yearning for the moment when their relationships and their families have the same rights and responsibilities as any other. It’s an honor to be able to play a part in this journey,” said Representative Handy.

Committee members who voted in favor of sending the bill to the floor include: Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence), Rep. John J. DeSimone (D-Dist. 5, Providence), Rep. Peter F. Martin (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence), Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Rep. Robert E. Craven Sr. (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown), Rep. Doreen Marie Costa (R-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), Rep. Donald J. Lally Jr. (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett), Rep. Michael J. Marcello (D-Dist. 41, Scituate, Cranston), Rep. J. Patrick O’Neill (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket) and Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). Committee member Rep. Charlene M. Lima (D-Dist. 14, Cranston, Providence) arrived after the meeting adjourned and indicated that she would have voted to approve the measure. Rep. Donna M. Walsh, (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly), was absent, but she along with  Representatives Ajello, O’Neill, Blazejewski, Martin, Craven, Lally, Almeida, and Shekarchi, is among the bill’s cosponsors.

Speaker Fox, who is the first openly gay person to serve as leader of either chamber, said the vote was an important and historic move toward genuine equality.

“In his inaugural address yesterday, President Obama said it best:  ‘Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.’  This historic vote taken today by the House Judiciary Committee is an important step toward completing our journey,” said the speaker.

The legislation (2013-H 5015 Sub. A) removes gender-specific language from the section of the general laws that governs eligibility for marriage. It inserts language that allows any person to marry any other eligible person, regardless of gender.

It contains a provision that allows couples who entered into civil unions in Rhode Island to convert those unions to marriages, and automatically converts all remaining civil unions that have not been dissolved by Jan. 1, 2014, into marriages on that date. Rhode Island has allowed civil unions since July 2011, but relatively few have been performed.

The bill reiterates constitutionally guaranteed freedom for religious institutions to set their own guidelines for marriage eligibility within their faith, and stipulation that under no circumstances will clergy or others authorized to perform marriages be obligated by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage.

Rhode Island is currently the only New England state that does not allow same-sex marriage, although Gov. Lincoln Chafee issued an executive order last year requiring state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. 

In September, a WPRI poll of 501 likely voters in Rhode Island found that 56 percent of Rhode Islanders support same-gender marriage, and only 36 percent oppose it.

Similar legislation (2013-S 0038) has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence).

Job Seeker January 24, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Why is it that the people of Rhode Island haven't been asked how they feel about this? this is demoralizing - isn't there anything more pressing that the state could focus their energies on? I don't want it, I don't want it in my children's classes at school, and I don't want any type of LGBT influencing my children...
Carol Wilson-Allen January 24, 2013 at 08:29 PM
@ Job, this is really tough. When you have middle school age children with this behavior and thinking its okay, because society says it is. Families need to pray over their children, before leaving their homes. The world wants to kill our children's mind, heart and soul by any "means" necessary and we need the power of God to cover and protect them...Pray, pray, pray!
Douglas Lachance January 25, 2013 at 12:13 AM
Robert E January 25, 2013 at 08:01 AM
Religion is like a penis. It's nice to have one, you can be proud of it... but you shouldn't wave it around in public, and you shouldn't shove it down someone's throat.
Robert E January 25, 2013 at 08:03 AM
It's time for people to stop using the bible as an excuse for bigotry. Bigotry and Hatred wrapped in Religion are still Bigotry and Hatred. Religion enables the bigoted and hateful to believe that their bigotry and hatred is virtue. Don’t make excuses for homophobia that you wouldn’t make for racism. Just imagine a Christian saying: I have a deep conviction in the authority of the Bible. And the Bible clearly approves of slavery, and in fact commands it in some cases (Exodus 22:3; Deuteronomy 20:10-11, 14). Furthermore, I belive, based on Genesis 9:25-27, that the descendants of Ham are to be the slaves of the descendants of Shem and Japheth, and after deep reflection I’ve concluded that Africans are the modern-day descendants of Ham. So please don’t call my support for enslaving Africans bigotry. It’s not. It is a working out of deep convictions. Bigots will be just as free to hate same sex marriage when it’s legal as they did when it was not. The difference is that nobody will be legally obligated to give a crap what they think.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »