Historic House vote on same-sex marriage may come next week

Jan 14, 2013

Justice Alice Gibney administering the oath of office to Speaker Fox at the start of the 2013 session
Credit Ian Donnis

A vote isn't expected when the House Judiciary Committee holds (at the rise, in Room 313) what will likely be a lengthy hearing Tuesday on the same-sex marriage bill sponsored by Representative Art Handy (D-Cranston). But a historic House floor vote on same-sex marriage may come as soon as next week.

With the state Senate once again looming as the main question on same-sex marriage, it's easy to overlook the significance of an unprecedented House vote on the issue.

In 2011, House Speaker Gordon Fox precluded a vote by the chamber, putting his support behind a civil union measure that has attracted little interest. Fox emerged as a stronger advocate while fending off a re-election challenge from independent Mark Binder, and the openly gay speaker was joined by his partner, Marcus LaFond, for his swearing-in at the start of the 2013 session.

In related news, a news conference was held at the Central Congregational Church to mark the creation of a new pro-same-sex marriage coalition. Among those attending the event were Governor Lincoln Chafee, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts, and state Treasurer Gina Raimondo.

Via news release:

Rhode Islanders United for Marriage will also employ grassroots organizing techniques focused on giving voice to the tens of thousands of marriage supporters in every corner of the state. People from all 39 cities and towns will be invited to join with their community to speak with lawmakers about why marriage matters to all families in the state.

UPDATE: An opposition group, the Faith Alliance to Preserve the Sanctity of Marriage as Established by God, announced it plans to hold a 4 pm Statehouse news conference Tuesday to call for the defeat of Handy's bill:

The Faith Alliance, recently formed by a culturally diverse group of religious and civic leaders representing over 100 organizations in Rhode Island, is also supported by the Knights of Columbus in Rhode Island which has over 7,000 members.  Luis Rodriguez, co-founder of the Faith Alliance and President of the Hispanic Ministerial Association, states, “Marriage is a sacred covenant between God, man, and woman.  It was the first covenant that God made with man and woman.  The Church and God-fearing people have been given the charge to protect and preserve God’s holy institution of marriage.”  

A news release said speakers at the Alliance's event will include Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin. Diocese of Providence spokesman Michael Guilfoyle later said that information is incorrect and that Tobin will not be among the speakers.

Christopher Plante, Director of the National Organization for Marriage, a major national voice in the movement to preserve the institution of marriage, will highlight the status of the national battle to prevent same sex marriage where 32 states have recently reaffirmed the traditional definition of marriage in their constitutions.  Key topics presented during the press conference will include Biblical and historical perspectives, the impact on families, and legal implications.  Brian Camenker of MassResistance will also provide comments regarding the effect of same sex marriage legislation in Massachusetts on government, businesses, employment, education, adoption laws, and public health.

Just how quickly or slowly the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up a vote on same-sex marriage remains to be seen.