While the outlook for same-sex marriage in the state Senate remains a question mark, one influential observer of Statehouse politics expects 2013 to be the year when it will squeak through the chamber.
Robert Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, believes same-sex marriage will pass by a thin margin in the 38-member Senate.
House Speaker Gordon Fox has pledged to call a vote on the issue early in the new session.
Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed is on record as remaining personally opposed to same-sex marriage. Opponents, including Bishop Thomas Tobin and the National Organization for Marriage, can be expected to make a vigorous lobbying effort against the issue.
Yet support for same-sex marriage in other states, include a series of first-ever referendum victories, has fostered “a deep understanding this issue is not going away,” Walsh says. Rhode Island is the only New England state that hasn’t legalized same-sex marriage.
Walsh notes how Senate Finance chairman Daniel DaPonte said during his primary campaign that he supports same-sex marriage with exemptions, and Senator Paul Jabour indicated he would follow his constituents’ wishes on the issue. The pro-same-sex marriage cause also picked up two seats in the Senate, with wins this month by Senators-elect Ryan Pearson and Catherine Cool Rumsey, following primary wins by two other supporters, Adam Satchell and Steve Archambault.
The evolving landscape “doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a hard fight,” Walsh says. “[But] sometimes the simplest political equation is when something is inevitable.”
The Senate looms as the likely lone holdout among Rhode Island government; Governor Lincoln Chafee devoted a big part of his inaugural address in 2011 to supporting same-sex marriage.