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Rhode Island Gears for Gay Marriage Battle in 2013

Friday, December 21, 2012


With the Rhode Island General Assembly set to reconvene in less than two weeks, same-sex marriage advocates say they are confident the issue will be brought to a vote during the 2013 legislative session.

Those sentiments were reaffirmed this week when Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed –considered a likely “no” vote on gay marriage legislation— said she expects the judiciary committee to vote on the matter during the session. On the House side, Speaker Gordon Fox has consistently said his chamber will vote on gay marriage by the end of January.

“We are certainly pleased and appreciative of the Senate President’s comments,” said Marriage Equality Rhode Island executive director Ray Sullivan. “We have long advocated that this bill should receive an open hearing and an up or down vote. That hasn’t happened and we appreciate the Senate President’s commitment to bring it to a vote.”

Sullivan led an election year effort to elect more same-sex marriage supporters to the Senate, which has long been considered the final road block to getting legislation passed. While that effort included a failed attempt to oust Senate judiciary chairman Michael McCaffrey from office, Sullivan said the overall campaign was a success.

“There are going to be more pro-equality supporters in the General Assembly than at any time in history,” Sullivan, a former State Representative, said. “I feel that we are well positioned strategically and institutionally within the General Assembly to finally move forward with passing civil rights legislation.”

Civil Unions are ‘Worthless’

Still, despite support from Governor Lincoln Chafee and House Speaker Gordon Fox, same-sex marriage is no sure thing for the Ocean State.

While the issue is debated in the State Senate, there will likely be legislation introduced to make changes to the state’s civil unions law, which was passed in 2011. Some lawmakers believe that getting rid of the so-called “Corvese amendment,” a stipulation that allows any religiously connected entity to ignore the legal import of a civil union, might be the best option for same-sex couples in Rhode Island.

But other leaders are far more critical of civil unions. Earlier this year, the state ACLU found that only 68 couples obtained civil union licenses in the first year of the law. By comparison, Hawaii issued 106 civil union licenses in the first month of its law.

ACLU executive director Steve Brown said the “Corvese amendment” is likely one reason so few Rhode Island pursued civil unions, but he also points to the fact that the rest of New England has already passed same-sex marriage laws.

“Our year-long review of the statistics in Rhode Island demonstrated that the civil union ‘compromise’ the legislature came up with in 2011 was worthless,” Brown said. “Legislators can no longer hide behind that law as an acceptable substitute for marriage equality. With Speaker Fox now promising an early vote on same-sex marriage legislation, I am very hopeful that both Houses will do the right thing in 2013 and join every other New England state on this issue.”

Let the Voters Decide

But some lawmakers, like State Senator Lou DiPalma, say they want the voters to decide on same-sex marriage. DiPalma said he would support a ballot question, but said he is unclear where his colleagues stand on the issue.

“As I haven’t talked with my Senate colleagues on the topic since we passed the Civil Unions legislation, I’m not certain what will result, should a bill be passed by the House and be heard in the Senate judiciary committee,” DiPalma said.

But while some have questioned whether a ballot referendum is even legal in Rhode Island, House Speaker Gordon Fox has indicated that he is completely opposed to leaving it up to the voters.

“The fundamental rights of a minority group of citizens should not be subjected to a divisive ballot initiative,” Fox said earlier this year. “Legislators are elected to lead and make decisions, and this is an issue that should be debated and ultimately decided by the people's representatives in the General Assembly. I am now, and have always been, opposed to placing civil rights issues on the ballot."

Growing the Coalition

While there are plenty of questions left to be answered regarding gay marriage, Sullivan was hesitant to speculate on the potential proposals that could be introduced during the 2013 session.

He said the focus now is on continuing to grow the base.

“This doesn’t change our focus,” he said. “We’re still committed to working with our friends and sponsors on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers and we look forward to growing that coalition of supporters.”


Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan.


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We have the following problems:
- 10.4% Unemployment (second highest, NV worse)
- 50th worst business climate (we're #1!)
- 49th worst economic climate (Maine was worse)
- 2nd worst population migration out of state (VT was higher)
- 2nd highest population immigration of illegal aliens (CA was higher)
3rd worst state to retire in...

Instead of dealing with that, the legislation everyone in the General Assembly is working on is Gay Marriage? Thank you Fox and Paiva-Weed for your continued failed leadership.

Ray Sullivan worked to increase the Senate base of electing more pro gay marriage senators. (Like Ryan Pearson in Senate 19.) Great job RI legislators your priorities are in the wrong place - AGAIN!

Comment #1 by Mark D on 2012 12 21

Mark, I couldn't have said it better. No one can find a job, we could care less that a have a Mecca for illegals and taxes and social programs are killing those lucky enough to be employed. Hey, but that important problem about gay marriage will be solved.

I hope it gets resolved before the chamber of commerce brochure goes to print, so we can attract the untapped segment of unemployed gay illegal aliens, too.

Comment #2 by Justin Fake on 2012 12 21

Perfectly stated Mark.
It's a matter of what difference does it really make in RI, the state is a basket case of social services, decline and diminishing value in all ways of life.
Best to pack up and leave the state to the special people and let them figure out how to pay the bills down the road.

Comment #3 by Gary Arnold on 2012 12 21

apologies - "independent"

Comment #4 by Mateo C on 2012 12 21

Mark - you hit the proverbial nail..

I don't really care what other people do, as long as it does not infringe on my life or that of my family.

This "battle" has nothing to do with turning RI around economically, and will not bring jobs to this state.

Where is the "independant" thought? The drive to be better? RI is in a death spiral of government welfare, and issues like this one are the things that Chafee & the GA are spending all their time on?...

I think RI is already 50 out of 50 - dead last in all categories.

Comment #5 by Mateo C on 2012 12 21

To all of you:
First of all, do you think that our politicians can't focus on more than one thing at the same time? Why does it have to be either/or? You really think legislation can't tackle marriage equality and other issues as well??

Second of all, marriage equality DOES help the economy. RI is behind the times in a number of ways, marriage equality being one of them. If you "don't care" what other people do, then why not just be happy for the LGBT community that they may finally be able to be legally married. And their weddings bring in revenue. And creating a legal and stable family life indirectly helps the economy. All of these comments above disgust me.

Comment #6 by Michelle Gagne on 2012 12 21

Mark D,

You've said it all, no need to repeat your spot-on post.

It's truly astounding how these government leaders can fiddle while Rome burns.

Leaders: Work on creating a vibrant economy, then knock yourselves out with the non-essential stuff all you want.

Comment #7 by Art West on 2012 12 21

"MY PRIORITIES FIRST". Motto of R.I. General Assembly electorate.

Comment #8 by Joyce Bryant on 2012 12 21

Wow, I'm happy for you and your privileged selves that you find gay marriage "non-essential". It's pretty essential to a large number of people in this state and affects lives at nearly every level. It affects the ability to adopt kids, share a mortgage, visit your wife/husband in the hospital, share health insurance and so on.

Comment #9 by Michelle Gagne on 2012 12 21

If you want to look at this from purely an economics standpoint--and there is certainly much more to it--gay marriage will be a good thing for RI. Not only will it infuse additional money into the lucrative wedding business but gay couples tend to be just the type of highly educated, financially stable, innovative, driven, economic contributors that Rhode Island needs. Currently their only incentive from RI is to move away and there are many states ready to welcome them.

Comment #10 by Puzzl ed on 2012 12 21

Michelle a few points,

do civil unions extend those benefits to the gay community? BTW I'm for gay marriage. The economy should be item #1 for the ga.

No our ga can't handle more than one issue at a time.

Comment #11 by george pratt on 2012 12 21

mark very well said, but honestly the only hope that this state can emerge to be worthwhile is for it to be forceably taken over. frankly id be happy to stare down the barrel of a gun if it got paiva-smokes- weed, fox, and that savior of our state chaffee out of town.
remember his promise

yeah right!!!

Comment #12 by steven richard on 2012 12 21

I agree with mark d! Also I think it should be put on the ballot, let the people decide, if we can decide on gambling we can decide on this!

Comment #13 by anthony sionni on 2012 12 21

Finally: An excellent secular analysis of marriage, pulshed in the Harvard Law Review is now available on Amazon. Highly recommended.
What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T Anderson and Robert P George (Dec 11, 2012)

Should be high on the reasding list for legislators and so-called experts on marriage and its impact on society.

Comment #14 by Donald Galamaga on 2012 12 21

Should be able to edit comments: My comment above "pulshed" should read "published"

Comment #15 by Donald Galamaga on 2012 12 21

Of course it will. RI politics is loaded with gays.
They're always going to take care of their own first.
Who cares about the unemployment?
Who cares about the ridiculous taxes we're paying?
Who cares about all the illegals in this state?
Who cares about the ENDLESS corruption in RI politics.

So long as gays can marry......we're all set.

Comment #16 by pearl fanch on 2012 12 21

Michelle, that's EXACTLY what we think. Our politicians CAN'T think of more than one thing at a time.

Most of the time, they can't even think of ONE thing at a time, never mind more than one.

The infinite ignorance in leadership of this state, knows no boundaries.

Comment #17 by pearl fanch on 2012 12 21

VATICAN CITY — The pope pressed his opposition to gay marriage Friday, denouncing what he described as people manipulating their God-given identities to suit their sexual choices — and destroying the very "essence of the human creature" in the process.

Benedict XVI made the comments in his annual Christmas address to the Vatican bureaucracy, one of his most important speeches of the year. He dedicated it this year to promoting traditional family values in the face of vocal campaigns in France, the United States, Britain and elsewhere to legalize same-sex marriage.

In his remarks, Benedict quoted the chief rabbi of France Gilles Bernheim, in saying the campaign for granting gays the right to marry and adopt children was an "attack" on the traditional family made up of a father, mother and children.

"People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being," he said. "They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.

"The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man's fundamental choice where he himself is concerned," he said.

Comment #18 by Gary Arnold on 2012 12 22

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