Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

R.I. Senate committee approves marriage bill

Rhode Island, Donna Nesselbush, gay news, Washington Blade

Donna Nesselbush

A Rhode Island Senate committee on Tuesday voted to advance a bill that would allow same-sex marriage in the state.

The 7-4 vote came a month after the Senate Judiciary Committee held a marathon hearing on Senate Bill 38. The Rhode Island House of Representatives in January overwhelmingly approved the same-sex marriage proposal.

“We have before us a historic piece of legislation,” state Sen. Donna Nesselbush (D-Pawtucket,) who sponsored SB 38, said before the vote took place.

Ray Sullivan, campaign director for Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, applauded the committee’s vote.

“This is an incredible and historic step forward in the campaign to ensure all loving, committed couples in Rhode Island have the freedom to marry,” he said. “We are pleased and proud that the members of the Judiciary Committee were so receptive to the thousands of their constituents who reached out and urged them to vote yes on Sen. Nesselbush’s bill.”

Neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut are among the nine states and D.C. that allow same-sex marriage.

Rhode Island’s civil unions law took effect in 2011, but only a few dozen couples have taken advantage of it. Governor Lincoln Chafee, who supports nuptials for gays and lesbians, last year signed an executive order that ordered state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other jurisdictions.

“Rhode Island currently stands as an island of inequality in our region,” Chafee said in a statement after the vote. “At this time of intense economic competition, we cannot afford to lag behind our New England neighbors and New York in this important area.”

The full Senate will vote on SB 38 tomorrow afternoon.

GOP senators back marriage bill

All five members of the Senate Republican Caucus announced their support of the proposal hours before the committee approved it.

“We support Senate Bill 38 because it rightfully extends the civil aspects of marriage to all Rhode Islanders while protecting the freedom of religion our state was founded upon,” state Sens. Dennis Algiere, David Bates, Dawson Hodgson, Nicholas Kettle and Chris Ottiano said in a joint statement. “Gay and lesbian couples deserve to be treated equally under the law, and at the same time churches, synagogues and mosques in our state must be free to exercise their faith and their sacraments as they see fit. This bill strikes the right balance and should be passed by the Senate.”

Committee members on Tuesday also voted 6-5 to kill a measure that would have placed a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman in Rhode Island on the 2014 ballot.

“Members of the committee heard from their constituents in strong opposition to putting fundamental rights on the ballot, and we thank them for defeating this divisive and harmful referendum bill,” Sullivan said.

23
Apr
2013

Rhode Island same-sex marriage bill becomes law

Lincoln Chafee, Democratic National Convention, gay news, Washington Blade

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee on Thursday signed a bill that will allow same-sex couples to marry in the Ocean State.

“Today we are making history,” he said. “We are living up to the ideals of our founders.”

Rhode Islanders United for Marriage Campaign Director Ray Sullivan, gay House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence) and other same-sex marriage supporters joined Chafee on the steps of the State House in Providence as he signed the measure into law. The state House of Representatives gave final approval to the bill by a 56-15 vote margin less than an hour before the signing ceremony.

“This law does not take anything away from a heterosexual couple,” lesbian state Rep. Deb Ruggiero (D-Jamestown) said. “Nothing is going to change, but tomorrow morning for gays and lesbians it’s going to be a very, very different world.”

State Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Providence) referenced her gay brother when she spoke in support of the measure.

“I rise in support of love in the state of Rhode Island,” she said.

Deputy Majority Leader Arthur Corvese (D-North Providence,) who introduced a bill that would have prompted a same-sex marriage referendum in 2014, once again spoke against nuptials for gays and lesbians before the vote.

“There is no man made law that can ever replace, supplant, suppress or subjugate the natural law,” he said.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence urged Rhode Island Catholics in a letter that will run in its newspaper on May 9 they should “examine their consciences very carefully” before they decide to “endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies.”

“Like many others, I am profoundly disappointed that Rhode Island has approved legislation that seeks to legitimize ‘same-sex marriage,’” he writes.

Christopher Plante, regional director of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage, also criticized the bill’s passage.

“Redefining marriage into a genderless institution to satisfy the demands of a small but politically powerful group is short-sighted policy that fails to take into account the rights and needs of the generations to come,” he told the Providence Journal before Chafee signed it into law.

Rhode Island is the 10th state to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Gays and lesbians can legally exchange vows in neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut as well as in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Maryland, Iowa, Washington and D.C. The Delaware Senate on Tuesday is scheduled to vote on a bill that would allow same-sex marriage in the First State.

“This is a great day in Rhode Island,” Fox said. “It is also a wonderful day for the generations of future Rhode Islanders who may never know a time when some people didn’t have all the same rights as others, and who hopefully will grow up wondering how on earth that ever could have been the law.”

“Governor, with the stroke of your pen, you will undo centuries of discrimination,” state Sen. Donna Nesselbush (D-Pawtucket,) who introduced the bill in the state Senate, added before Chafee signed the measure into law. “Our moment has arrived.”

Rhode Island’s same-sex marriage law will take effect on Aug. 1.

02
May
2013

R.I. lawmakers introduce same-sex marriage bills

Rhode Island, Donna Nesselbush, gay news, Washington Blade

Donna Nesselbush

Two Rhode Island legislators on Thursday introduced bills that would legalize same-sex marriage in the Ocean State.

“We are long overdue,” state Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Cranston,) who has introduced a same-sex marriage bill in the Rhode Island House of Representatives each year for more than a decade, said. “Rhode Island, the colony founded on the principle of personal liberty, is now the only New England state that doesn’t allow same-gender couples equal marriage. Rhode Islanders recognize that same-gender couples deserve the rights and responsibilities that other couples already enjoy, and support has been getting wider every year.”

Openly lesbian state Sen. Donna Nesselbush (D-Pawtucket) introduced a similar proposal in the Senate.

“After many years, I have finally found the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with, the woman I want to marry,” she said. “We are both spiritual and want to deepen and strengthen our devotion. We are deeply in love, and are hoping and praying for marriage equality so we can tie the knot. But this is not about me or us. This is about the thousands of loving gay and lesbian couples who want and deserve the right to marry.”

Nine states and D.C. currently allow same-sex marriage.

Less than 50 couples have taken advantage of Rhode Island’s civil unions law since it took effect in July 2011. The Ocean State remains the only New England state without a same-sex marriage law.

Forty-two members of the House have co-sponsored the measure in their chamber, while 11 state senators signed onto Nesselbush’s proposal. Gay House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence) said he remains committed to bringing the measure to a full vote by the end of this month.

Nesselbush said Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Newport,) who opposes marriage rights for same-sex couples, has also pledged to allow a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee once the House approves it.

“With nine states, the District of Columbia and the president of the United States all embracing marriage equality, we have never been closer,” Nesselbush said. “Let this be the year Rhode Island joins the burgeoning force for equality that is sweeping our nation.”

Ray Sullivan, campaign manager of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, applauded the lawmakers who introduced the measures. He noted to the Washington Blade on Thursday that 53 of the state’s 113 legislators signed onto the measures as co-sponsors.

“We’ve been working and building towards this moment for a very long time,” Sullivan said. “The momentum is palpable and it’s great to see so many pro-equality legislators standing up for equal rights for all loving committed couples.”

Governor Lincoln Chafee signed an executive order last year mandating state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in neighboring Massachusetts, Connecticut and other states. He has publicly backed nuptials for gays and lesbians, and said he will sign a same-sex marriage bill if one were to reach his desk.

04
Jan
2013

R.I. House approves same-sex marriage bill

Lincoln Chafee, Democratic National Convention, gay news, Washington Blade

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Rhode Island House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to marry in the state.

The 51-19 vote came after lawmakers on both sides of the issue debated the measure for more than an hour.

“This bill is so important,” state Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Cranston,) who introduced the proposal. “It is one of the most important things we’re going to do, and it’s historic.”

Deputy Majority Leader Arthur Corvese (D-North Providence) is among those who spoke against the bill. He described the measure as “an irrevocable societal game-changer” that would redefine the definition of marriage.

“Marriage is also significantly the biological unit of the family, promoting the well-being of children, providing them with a framework of identity and responsibility, creating a stable marital order and through this order sustaining a civil society,” Corvese said. “By redefining marriage, by breaking and disregarding the present parameters, you are not only destabilizing the marital order and by extension civil society, you are opening the door to further redefinition.”

State Rep. John Edwards (D-Portsmouth/Tiverton) countered.

“This will be a game-changer, but I believe it is a game-changer that will make things better for our state and it will allow all those people right now who truly love each other to enter the same contract that I or my wife and most of the people in this room currently enjoy,” he said. “This is not a religious issue. This is not about the natural order. It is strictly a civil rights issue.”

State Rep. Maria Cimini (D-Providence) discussed how she and her husband tied the knot in the Rhode Island capital less than three years ago.

“He and I went with a check for $34 to Providence City Hall,” she said. “No one raised an eye brow. No one flinched. We filled out a form and I was able to get married. And yet my family members — my aunts who have been together for over 20 years have had to spend a lot of money to protect their assets, even though their love and their commitment is greater than I’ve known at this point being in such a new relationship. We have colleagues in this room who have spent decades with their partners, with their husbands. They have had to leave this state to commit to [each other.]”

Gay state Rep. Frank Ferri (D-Warwick) noted he and his partner, Tony Carparco, will celebrate their 32nd anniversary in August as he emotionally spoke in support of the bill.

“You can define marriage any way you want,” Ferri said. “We’ve had a marriage for 32 years.”

The vote comes two days after the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the measure.

Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Newport) remains opposed to marriage rights for same-sex couples, but she has pledged she would allow a vote on the proposal in the Senate Judiciary Committee once the House approves it.

Rhode Island remains the only New England state without a same-sex marriage law. Governor Lincoln Chafee told the Washington Blade during an interview earlier this month that he feels nuptials for gays and lesbians are “long overdue” in the Ocean State.

“There are certain legislative votes that can fairly be characterized as ‘historic,’” he said in a statement after the House approved the bill. “The Rhode Island House of Representatives’ overwhelming passage of marriage equality legislation is one such vote.”

Ray Sullivan, campaign director for Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, agreed.

“Today is a proud and historic day,” he said. “For the first time, the Rhode Island House of Representatives has affirmed that all families in our state should have access to the unique protection and recognition that only civil marriage provides.”

Handy echoed Sullivan’s sentiments after the vote.

“This issue is about fairness and allowing all Rhode Islanders to have equal access to the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage, but marriage is about so much more than legal protections,” he said. “My wife and I have been married since 1997, and as we’ve worked together to raise our son, the value of having a committed, strong family has become more apparent to us over time. All Rhode Islanders deserve to enjoy that security and support, and deserve to have their family recognized as equal to others. It feels good to see how far we’ve come in Rhode Island toward valuing all families, and I know we are close to the day when marriage equality becomes law here.”

The Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence are among the groups that remain opposed to any effort to extend nuptials to gays and lesbians in the Ocean State.

“Today’s vote by the House of Representatives undermines the common good of our state and strikes against the very foundation of our culture,” the Rhode Island Catholic Conference said in a statement that also referred to the state’s nearly 10 percent unemployment rate and the plight of those without homes during the cold spell that brought single digit temperatures to the region earlier this week. “Unfortunately, this bill redefines marriage and fails to protect the religious liberties of many faith communities and individuals of conscience who believe that marriage is a union of one man and one woman. As witnessed in other states, those who support traditional marriage will most likely be punished by costly lawsuits and cultural persecution.”

24
Jan
2013