In his inaugural speech, newly elected Governor Lincoln Chafee announced that it was time for Rhode Island to enact marriage equality legislation, and the little state that just might, is wasting no time.
Today, Representative Arthur Handy will re-introduce into the Rhode Island House a bill to allow for same-sex nuptials. Cranston has already lined up 27 co-sponsors and was hoping for more, but will introduce the bill no matter what the number in hopes of spurring an early-session hearing and vote on the measure.
Besides Handy, the other lead sponsors include Democratic Representatives Frank Ferri, Edith Ajello, Deborah Deborah Ruggiero, and openly gay House Speaker Gordon Fox, who said, “I would like it done earlier than later, only because later you get into budget issues and your focus sort of changes.”
The bill's chances in the Senate are a bit more uncertain because Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed says she is personally opposed to equality. Okay, maybe she didn't say it exactly like that, but that's exactly what she means.
Handy's bill is identical to one he introduced last year, declaring marriage to be a “legal institution recognized by the state in order to promote stable relationships and to protect individuals who are in those relationships.” The bill offers a list of eligibility requirements for two people to marry, regardless of gender, but allows that no one can marry a long list of relatives, including a parent, grandparent, sibling or child of a sibling. And, before the churches gets their robes in a twist, the bill also makes it clear that no religious institution would be required to perform a civil marriage if it conflicted with its teachings.
And, of course, one politico, another Democrat, Jon Brien, promised to reintroduce legislation that would take the decision--which he calls highly personal--out of the hands of the state’s 113 legislators by requiring a public referendum.
Yes letting the majority vote on denying rights to the minority. That's equality.
Fox opposes such a referendum, calling same-sex marriage a civil-rights issue: “Civil-rights issues should be dealt with in the bodies that were elected to do the work of the people. This is where those decisions should be made."
Here's hoping that Rhode Island takes that giant step.