This morning, Rhode Island state Representative Arthur Handy will introduce legislation allowing gay couples to marry in the state. Handy, a Democrat, said the bill is already drafted, but that he needs Wednesday's second legislative day to gather signatures from co-sponsors, who will include openly gay Democratic House Speaker Gordon Fox.
One of the key hurdles, as always, will be how the bill addresses concerns from religious groups, but Handy promises, as he has promised every single time he's introduced his legislation, that the bill will contain language that grants religious groups protections, if they object to same sex unions as a matter of their religious beliefs.
As it should be, since marriage in this country is a legal, not a religious, institution.
The 2011 version of Handy's marriage equality bill stated that every religious institution has "exclusive control over its own religious doctrine, policy, and teachings regarding who may marry within their faith, and on what terms." In addition, it said that "no court or other state or local governmental body, entity, agency or commission shall compel, prevent, or interfere in any way with any religious institution's decisions about marriage eligibility within that particular faith's tradition." And it stated that "ordained clergy, ministers or elders [...] shall not be obligated or otherwise required by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage."
I've said it before, but it bears repeating: if a religious institution objects to same-sex marriage because of some archaic belief, that's their right. But they don't have the right to prevent Americans, adult Americans, from legally marrying the person they love.
Hopefully, Arthur Handy and Rhode Island will follow the path blazed last month by Maryland, Maine and Washington.
And Illinois? You're next.