Walsh knocks down speculation on same-sex marriage/binding arbitration deal

Feb 4, 2013

Robert Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, is pouring cold water on one theory making the rounds -- that the House of Representatives will approve binding arbitration as part of a deal for the state Senate to pass same-sex marriage legislation.

The premise is a little funny on its face, since organized labor is a strong supporter of both issues. Still, stranger things have happened in the annals of Rhode Island politics.

Yet Walsh, a well-connected observer of the Statehouse, says "there's absolutely no truth" to scuttlebutt about a deal involving same-sex marriage and binding arbitration. He finds the chatter too bemusing to be true:

"What exactly would the deal be? I get everything I've been fighting for, for a long time?"

The Senate most recently passed binding arbitration in 2011; the legislation died after not being taken up in the House.

Meanwhile, Walsh -- who predicted in November that the Senate will pass same-sex marriage this year -- continues to believe that it will happen, "by a better margin than expected."

State Senator Dawson Hodgson (R-North Kingstown), a supporter of same-sex marriage, is among those calling for fast action on the issue in the chamber. In a historic vote, the House overwhelmingly voted in favor of same-sex marriage last month.

Moving forward, Walsh says, "I'd rather take a couple of months to get it done right. Given the appropriate amount of time, this [same-sex marriage bill backed by supporters] will pass the state Senate."