Four new senators added to Judiciary; impact unclear for same-sex marriage

Jan 8, 2013

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed unveiled her new selections Tuesday afternoon for the Senate Judiciary Committee with a series of subtractions (Maryellen Goodwin, William Walaska) and additions of newly elected lawmakers (William Conley, Steve Archambault, Lou Raptakis, and Frank Lombardi). What all this means in the coming fight over same-sex marriage isn't entirely clear, although Senate leaders certainly possess the ability to kill the drive for what proponents call "marriage equality." 

Archambault is a same-sex marriage supporter. Lombardi is an opponent and so is Raptakis, although he says he'd be inclined to support a bill subjecting the issue to a statewide vote. Conley, who has been described as an opponent, was guarded in describing where he stands on the issue:

“At this point, you know, I haven’t even looked at the legislation. I’ve been listening to the positions of both sides. That’s where I’m at."

Senator Josh Miller (D-Cranston), a supporter of same-sex marriage, describes the Judiciary changes as not representing a significant difference in the makeup of the committee.

As it stands, the following five Judiciary Committeee senators are considered by advocates to support same-sex marriage: Dawson Hodgson, Erin Lynch, Paul Jabour, Donna Nesselbush and Steve Archambault.

"No" votes are expected from Michael McCaffrey, Frank Lombardi, Lou Raptakis, Harold Metts.

Conley remains a question mark -- and a key vote.

Further muddying the waters, the Senate president, majority leader, and minority leader have the ex officio ability to participate in the votes of standing committees.

The House is expected to take up same-sex marriage legislation quickly. The thinking is the Senate will proceed either move fast or stretch things out until the end of the session.

This post has been updated with new information.