After years of frustration, efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island ramp up this week. A marriage equality bill will be re-introduced in the House. There is new momentum to legalize same-sex marriage with newly-inaugurated Governor Lincoln Chafee and openly gay House Speaker Gordon Fox supporting the bill, reports the Providence Journal.
Rep. Arthur Handy, D-Cranston, said he had already lined up 27 co-sponsors and was hoping for more, but would introduce the bill no matter what the number on Thursday in hopes of spurring an early-session hearing and vote on the measure. Besides Handy, the other lead sponsors include Representatives Frank Ferri, D-Warwick, Edith Ajello, D-Providence, Deborah Ruggiero, D-Jamestown, and the openly gay House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, D-Providence, who had said in the days leading up to the start of the 2011 General Assembly session that he hoped for a House vote on same-sex marriage early in the session, before the lawmakers get wrapped up in the budget and other issues.
It says: “Any person who otherwise meets the eligibility requirements [in law] may marry any other eligible person regardless of gender.” It also says: “No person shall marry” a long list of relatives, including a parent, grandparent, sibling or child of a sibling, and makes clear that no religious institution would be required to perform a civil marriage if it conflicted with its teachings.
One Democratic rep, Jon Brien of Woonsocket, vows to block the bill. Brien promises that "within days" he will introduce legislation that would mandate a public referendum on the issue.
The outlook in the Senate remains uncertain. Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed reportedly is "personally opposed" to gay marriage but has not indicated if she will try to block the bill. At any rate, the bill's chances of success are much higher with the homophobic former Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri—and a veto threat—out of the picture.