Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin says Rhode Island voters should be the ones who decide whether to legalize same-sex marriage.
In a statement on Friday, Tobin responded to Governor Lincoln Chafee's assertion a day earlier that he would likely veto a same-sex marriage bill if it makes approval contingent on a statewide vote. Tobin calls Chafee's stance "arbitrary and undemocratic."
"One must ask, respectfully, what the Governor is afraid of?
"An issue of this magnitude, historic in scope and with enormous cultural and societal consequences, should be determined by the citizens of the state. This is the same path followed by several other states throughout the country. A scheduled referendum would also allow time to receive the direction of the United States Supreme Court which will consider the matter within the next few months.
The discussion of same-sex marriage is extremely important for people on both sides of the issue. Let us vote.”
Considering relatively rapid changes in public attitudes about same-sex marriage, Rhode Islanders could potentially vote in favor of such a referendum.
Yet supporters remain sharply opposed to putting an issue they consider a matter of civil rights to a popular vote.
State Senator Frank Ciccone is expected to introduce a bill calling for a statewide vote on same-sex marriage.
Where the endgame is on this in the General Assembly remains to be seen. House Speaker Gordon Fox avoided detailed comment when asked this week about how he would respond to Senate approval of a same-sex marriage bill that includes a statewide vote.