Senate Judiciary Committee's 12-hour Same-Sex Marriage Hearing -- And What's Next

Mar 22, 2013

Senator Frank Ciccone, Governor Lincoln Chafee, and Treasurer Gina Raimondo at the witness table.
Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

If hundreds of people offer heartfelt arguments over 12 hours to lawmakers whose minds are mostly made up on the controversial issue of same-sex marriage, does it make any difference?

"I don't know," says Senator Lou Raptakis (D-Coventry), one of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that held a marathon hearing on the subject from 5 pm Thursday to 5 am Friday.

Raptakis says 9 of 10 committee members stuck it out to the end.

The talking points wielded by supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage echoed earlier hearings. Those speaking obviously value the opportunity to comment and make an impression, even if some others might question the impact. There were passionate arguments and off-kilter commentary, with one speaker carrying on about someone having sex with a cow in Wisconsin.

Senate spokesman Greg Pare offered this info on the length of the hearing:

"The hearing ended at 4:57 a.m. this morning. I don’t know for certain if it is a record, but it is the longest committee hearing anyone can remember in either chamber."

Raptakis is a Judiciary Committee member worth watching since his stance has been evolving. Along with Senator James Doyle of Pawtucket, Raptakis asked this week to have his name removed as a cosponsor of Senator Frank Ciccone's referendum bill. As far as his own stance, "I'm still debating the issues," Raptakis said Friday morning, but he believes philosophically that the full Senate should have the chance for a "great debate" on the subject of same-sex marriage.

Raptakis says he expects amendments will now be made to both Ciccone's bill and the "marriage equality" bill introduced by Senator Donna Nesselbush.

There are other variables, such as whether the Judiciary Committee will vote on just one of those bills or both. Another question is whether Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, and Minority Leader Dennis Algiere will exercise their option to participate in a Senate Judiciary vote.

To recap, among the nine other Judiciary Committee members besides Raptakis, five support same-sex marriage: Dawson Hodgson, Stephen Archambault; Erin Lynch; Paul Jabour; and Donna Nesselbush.

These are opponents: Harold Metts; Chairman Michael McCaffrey; Frank Lombardi;

William Conley says he remains undecided.