Hundreds Turn Out for Same-Sex Marriage Legislation Hearing

Mar 22, 2013

Rev. Bernard Healey (on right) with opponents of Same Sex Marriage at Senate Judiciary hearing March 21, 2013
Credit Ian Donnis
Supporters of Same-Sex Marriage at Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 21, 2013
Credit Ian Donnis

Supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage offered a barrage of passionate arguments during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday.   The hundreds of people patiently waited to offer testimony for and against same-sex marriage. 

Supporters called same-sex marriage an issue of equality and fairness. Critics argued it’s wrong and harmful to society to redefine the traditional concept of marriage.

The two sides invoked Jesus, Roger Williams, and Jackie Robinson in pressing their views during a hearing that stretched into the night.

Barbara Schoenfeld argued that legalizing same-gender marriage will give Rhode Island an economic boost.   It’s also a personal issue for Schoenfeld since two of her three sons are gay. "I have no idea why, I have no idea how, I know it doesn’t matter, I love them all, they’re terrific kids.   I want for some sons the privileges and the rights that my husband of 37 years and I have enjoyed."

Opponents of same-sex marriage told the Senate Judiciary Committee it’s wrong to call same gender rights a civil rights issue.  They said redefining marriage would hurt the fabric of society.

Michael Krzywanas says marriage has been defined as a union of a man and a woman since the dawn of time.   He says the arguments being used in support of redefining marriage are insulting to minorities. “Be very clear about what is being proposed here, because this farce of the speaker calling this a civil rights issue is preposterous.  I would think our African-American friends would be quite upset to hear this term being so flippantly used in this context.”

The closely divided Judiciary Committee heard hours of testimony, but didn’t vote on either bill.  It’s not clear when the committee will vote on the legislation. A vote is expected later in the General Assembly session.

Opponents favor a bill that would make legalizing same-sex marriage contingent on a statewide vote. Same-sex marriage supporters say it’s the General Assembly that should approve the measure.

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