Civil Unions: Senate Vote Coming This Week
Monday, June 27, 2011
As the General Assembly works to tie up all of its loose ends in the final week of the session, there is still at least one major issue the Senate is expected to vote on: Civil unions. The bill still needs to be passed out of the Judiciary Committee (a vote could come as early as Tuesday) before appearing before the full Senate, but Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed has said a vote will take place.
Last month, the House overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill sponsored by Rep. Peter Petrarca after openly gay House Speaker Gordon Fox ruled out same-sex marriage for 2011 because of what many believed to be a lack support, particularly in the Senate. Despite criticism from a large number of marriage equality advocates, Fox chose to endorse a civil unions bill that “grants important and long overdue legal rights to same-sex couples in Rhode Island.”
Paiva-Weed, who has said she is not in favor of same sex marriage, has thrown her support behind civil unions and predicted the bill would pass in the Senate.
Let Voters Decide On Marriage
But it’s not a done deal yet. Despite a mostly Democratic body, Rhode Island’s State Senate is viewed as more conservative than the House, and most agree that a same-sex marriage bill would have struggled to garner enough support for passage.
Early in the session, Sen. Frank Ciccone introduced legislation that would have put the definition of marriage to vote by Rhode Islanders, saying that the decision should not come down to the 113 member General Assembly or the courts.
“I have always felt that this issue, which is so personal to so many different people, should not be decided at the State House or in a courtroom,” Ciccone said. “Rhode Islanders have been asked to vote on much lesser issues; I cannot think of one reason why they should be denied the opportunity to vote on a matter of much greater importance.”
Playing Catch Up With Rest Of New England
But that doesn’t mean civil unions won’t get Senate support.
Some of Ciccone’s colleagues have been vocal in their support for marriage equality. Sen. Donna Nesselbush has argued in favor of same-sex marriage and will be among the Senators supporting civil unions when it comes to vote this week.
Earlier this year, Nesselbush penned an op-ed calling the equality debate a civil rights issue that is playing out before the General Assembly’s eyes. She said it’s time for the Ocean State to catch up with the rest of New England.
“Rhode Island has always embraced freedom with boldness. Yet now we embarrassingly trail behind our neighbors Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut, all of whom have already recognized marriage equality,” she said. “Once pioneers of religious independence, Rhode Island now fails to keep pace with the vast majority of our New England neighbors.”
Right Piece Of Legislation
Although a hearing notice has not been posted on the General Assembly’s website, Speaker Fox said last week that he isn’t concerned and that he expects a vote to take place. Paiva Weed has been quiet on the timeline all along, but has said the session will not end without a vote.
The question now is how they’ll vote.
For his part, Petrarca, whose House bill generated bipartisan support, has called civil unions the “right piece of legislation at the right time.”
“We have made great progress today in our goal of providing increased rights, benefits and protections for gay and lesbian couples,” he said when the bill passed the House. “This bill is a step forward to ensuring equality and improving their quality of life.”
If passed by the Senate, Governor Lincoln Chafee has said he will sign the bill into law.
- A LIVELY EXPERIMENT May 19, 2011 Civil Unions
- BREAKING NEWS: Civil Unions Passes House Judiciary
- BREAKING NEWS: House Passes Controversial Civil Unions Bill
- Civil Unions Goes to Senate Judiciary Committee
- Gay Rights Rally Protests Civil Unions Bill
- NEW: Bishop Tobin Calls for Defeat of Civil Unions
- NEW: Chafee OK with Civil Unions
- NEW: Paiva Weed Backs Civil Unions
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.