Teresa Paiva Weed

Ian Donnis / RIPR

To the delight of a crowd of hundreds of people in front of the Statehouse, Governor Lincoln Chafee on Thursday evening signed into law legislation making Rhode Island the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Two companion bills forming the basis for the law sped through the General Assembly in recent weeks, in sharp contrast to how the issue of same-sex marriage languished for the preceding 16 years.

With the YWCA Rhode Island set to hold its fifth annual Women Holding Office celebration this evening at the Kirkbrae Country Club, it's a good time to revisit the under-representation of women in Rhode Island politics.

Tuesday was a remarkable day in Rhode Island politics. First, the five-member GOP contingent in the 38-member state Senate -- including the chamber's low-key minority leader, Dennis Algiere -- offered its unified support for same-sex marriage. Then, and much more significantly, Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio found himself on the wrong side of a key vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rhode Island is now on the cusp of legalizing same-sex marriage.

With a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on same-sex marriage legislation expected as soon as next week, the group leading the campaign in favor of legalization says it plans to deploy more than 300 people this weekend to knock on doors and make phone calls.

Ray Sullivan, the head of Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, says the stepped-up effort is meant to connect constituents in key Senate districts with their legislators "to carry the message and the banner that it's finally time to pass marriage equality."

Legislative language that would allow Rhode Islanders who own guns defined as assault weapons to keep them after the July 1 effective date is missing from the relevant bill.

Happy Friday and welcome back. Your tips and thoughts are always appreciated in my inbox at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org. Let's dive in.

Ian Donnis / RIPR

A nine-point plan intended to reduce gun-related violence and reduce the threat of a school shooting in Rhode Island was unveiled by leading elected and public-safety officials at the Statehouse Tuesday afternoon. Legislative leaders repeatedly called the proposal a starting point for discussion, raising questions about what exactly will meet with General Assembly muster before the legislature ends it session in June.

The full Rhode Island Senate is expected to vote on same-sex marriage legislation within the next few weeks. That’s according to the spokesman for Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed.

The first step for the legislation is the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Same-sex marriage supporters want the General Assembly to approve same-sex marriage. Opponents favor a competing bill calling for the issue to be decided through a statewide vote.

The Senate is expected to consider the issue after its spring break next week.

Legislative leaders signaled Monday that local officials in Coventry should be the ones responsible for addressing the future of a troubled fire district in the town. A Superior Court judge has ordered the Central Coventry Fire District to close April 11th.

House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed offered skeptical notes in response to requests Monday for state help to preserve the Central Coventry Fire District.

Superior Court Judge Brian Stern last week ordered the district to close April 11. The move came after voters in the district rejected a proposed tax increase.

The General Assembly Web site is adding live video streaming that will allow viewers to watch up to four committee meetings at the same time, as well as House and Senate sessions.

The content will be archived for viewing through the Web site, according to a news release:

Currently, Capitol TV airs a live House session and taped the Senate session to broadcast after. Without web-streaming, the channel could only broadcast one live committee meeting at a time.

A few years back, when lawmakers in states such as Vermont and Massachusetts approved gay marriage, the political chatter was always focused on whether a vote supporting marriage equality would kill a legislative career due to a backlash against those who approved gay unions.

Those who supported gay marriage in legislatures were rarely ousted from office for their votes.

A state Senate bill being filed Wednesday by Senator Frank Ciccone (D-Providence) calls for a statewide referendum to offer an up or down vote on same-sex marriage.

The bill is cosponsored by 10 other senators: Lou DiPalma (D-Middletown0; Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio; William Walaska (D-Warwick); Nicholas Kettle (R-Coventry); James Doyle (D-Pawtucket); Lou Raptakis (D-Coventry); Judiciary Chairman Michael McCaffrey (D-Warwick); Frank Lombardi (D-Cranston); Walter Felag (D-Warren); and David Bates (R-Barrington).

The timing was purely coincidental, but it's hard to imagine a sharper contrast in leadership styles than what Rhode Island saw this week from Governor Lincoln Chafee and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed.

Rhode Island State House
Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The leadership of the state Senate Tuesday unveiled a legislative package of 25 bills meant to improve Rhode Island’s economy.