Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin and Governor Lincoln D. Chafee are at it again over their favorite hot button issue, same-sex marriage. His Excellency issued a statement supporting the move by Sen. Frank Ciccone, a Providence Democrat, to put the marriage equality issue to a statewide voter referendum.
``We will continue to oppose efforts to redefine the institution of marriage in Rhode Island,’’ Bishop Tobin said in a statement released this morning. ``Nevertheless, the legislation introduced by Senator Ciccone presents an eminently reasonable approach to this divisive issue. It advances the discussion in a positive and democratic way, while at the same time safeguarding the rights of all parties. The citizens of Rhode Island have a right to vote on this crucial issue.’’
Chafee, naturally, disagrees. A supporter of marriage equality, the governor believes that the General Assembly should vote on the issue. ``Since my time as a delegate to the Rhode Island Constitutional Convention of 1986, I have been consistent in my view that in a representative democracy lawmakers have the responsibility to make decisions on matters both monumental and routine.
``This is a question that should be taken up by the General Assembly, whose members were sent to the State House to represent their constituents and the people of Rhode Island – a majority of whom support marriage equality. Just as the House overwhelmingly passed the marriage equality bill in January, the Senate should take an up or down vote on this critical issue.’’
The House, of course, has approved the measure and the bill awaits Senate action. Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Newport, an opponent of marriage equality, has so far been the biggest roadblock for gay marriage supporters.