Sources: Gay Marriage Can’t Pass RI House
Thursday, April 07, 2011
In interviews with GoLocalProv, the number of 32 to 34 votes consistently was referenced as the number of state reps in favor of gay marriage, falling short of the 38 votes necessary for passage. Two state reps—from opposite sides of the issue—confirmed that number, but offered differing interpretations of exactly what it meant.
Jon Brien, a conservative Woonsocket Democrat who is an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, said that at his last count there were 32 to 34 reps who would vote for gay marriage—although he admitted the numbers could have shifted by a few votes one way or the other.
Edith Ajello, a prominent Providence progressive, offered a more optimistic picture of her bill passing, saying the estimated 32 to 34 pro-gay marriage votes are “rock solid.” But she said there are other state reps who are leaning in favor of it. Plus, she said, not all state reps might show up, meaning that it would take fewer than 38 votes for the measure to pass.
‘An exercise in futility’
Another factor that he thinks will work in his favor: Brien believes it's unlikely that gay marriage will pass the Senate. “Why we’re going to take on a contentious issue when we know it’s dormant in the other side of the building—higher minds would have to answer that question,” he said.
Other state reps have expressed similar views. “The Senate’s not going to pass,” said Robert Flaherty, D-Warwick. “It’s just an exercise in futility.”
Judiciary chair: still time to pass the bill
The hold-up is something of a setback for gay marriage supporters. Fox, for one, had said he wanted an early vote on the issue at the start of the session.
But now Ajello, who is committee chair, said there's no rush. (Ajello is pictured left.)
“There’s no real reason to rush to have the vote this week or the next week or even before the break,” Ajello said.
Gay marriage supporters optimistic
“We are confident that full marriage equality will be attained this year for the thousands of couples and families currently denied access to equal rights and protections under Rhode Island’s discriminatory marriage laws,” said Bill Fischer, a spokesman for Marriage Equality Rhode Island. “We have every reason to believe a vote in the House will be scheduled within the coming weeks.”
He added: “While others may speculate on possible vote counts, we remain confident that the support is there both in committee and on the floor to pass this important civil rights bill.”
Votes on a ‘knife’s edge’
An advocate on the other side of the issue was more guarded.
“Both the potential committee and floor votes remain on a knife’s edge. One or two key votes will swing the outcome in either direction,” said Chris Plante, executive director of the state chapter of the National Organization for Marriage. “Madam Chairperson Ajello seems overly optimistic—it is safe to say that if Speaker Fox had the support in committee or on the floor he would be calling for a vote.”
“However, by no means does this mean the battle is over,” he added. “The National Organization for Marriage-Rhode Island expects that Speaker Fox, Governor Chafee, and homosexual-marriage advocates will continue to press the House of Representatives on this issue. Therefore, we are urging supporters of one man/one woman marriage to remain vigilant, continue calling and email their representatives, and to visit the Statehouse in person to speak to their representatives.”
Update: A previous version of this article said April 28 is the deadline for House committees to vote on bills. It is actually the deadline to have a hearing.
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