Same-sex marriage bill moves to full RI House

Jan 22, 2013

A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island has cleared its first legislative hurdle. The House Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly approved the legislation, paving the way for a full House vote later this week.

The crowd assembled for the same sex marriage vote erupted in applause and cheers when the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to pass the bill on to the full House.  The panel had heard hours of testimony. By the time it came to vote, only Committee chair Edith Ajello had anything left to say.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Edith Ajello confers with staff before the vote
Credit Flo Jonic

“This is a truly historic moment,” says Ajello. “Many of us have been waiting for this for a number of years, working on this hard.”

The House is expected to vote on the bill Thursday. Then it’s on to the Senate where opposition is greater. Ray Sullivan, director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, says they’re not deterred.

“The battle is in focusing on all 113 members of the General Assembly,” says Sullivan. “We want all of them to review and receive our message with an open mind and open heart and so far that has been the case.”

This was the first time a same sex marriage bill has cleared a Rhode Island legislative committee.  Then-Rep. Michael Pisaturo introduced such a bill in 2001 but it was defeated in committee.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee calls the vote it a “significant step” toward marriage equality.  He also calls it a civil rights issue, an issue of basic fairness and an economic development issue.

Opponents of the bill say same-sex marriage goes against God’s definition of marriage, and normalize homosexuality.  

Editor's note: This version of the story correctly states that former Rep. Michael Pisaturo introduced the 2001 bill.

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