Providence, Rhode Island --- Rhode Island State Rep. Arthur Handy’s legislation to extend marriage equality to all the citizens of the ocean state, cleared the first hurdle when the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in favor of same-sex marriage. The full General Assembly will consider the measure on Thursday January 24th, 2013.
With 42 of the 75 members of the state House of Representatives signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, it’s passage is nearly guaranteed. The legislation will then be considered by the state Senate, where Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush has introduced similar legislation.
There are 4 LGBT Democrats who are elected representatives in the Rhode Island state legislature. The Speaker of the House Gordon D. Fox, Rep. Frank Ferri, Rep. Deb Ruggiero, and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush.
The primary sponsor of the bill, Rep. Arthur Handy stated “It’s just overwhelming to see a unanimous ‘yes’ vote on marriage equality by a panel of elected officials in Rhode Island. This is a historic moment when our state is at last turning toward acceptance and equality of all people. So many Rhode Islanders have been yearning for the moment when their relationships and their families have the same rights and responsibilities as any other. It’s an honor to be able to play a part in this journey.”
Gay Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) spoke with the Providence Journal.
"This important effort has received the support of a growing number of Rhode Islanders from nearly every political background and religious tradition, and I believe it is time our state recognizes the dignity and value of relationships between committed and loving individuals of the same gender by enacting full marriage equality in Rhode Island," he said.
Cicilline, an openly gay Providence Democrat and a former state representative, cast the sole vote in favor of marriage equality while serving on the House Judiciary Committee in 2001.The Rhode Island House of Representatives released a statement related to the legislation.
Speaker Fox, who is the first openly gay person to serve as leader of either chamber, said the vote was an important and historic move toward genuine equality.
“In his inaugural address yesterday, President Obama said it best: ‘Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.’ This historic vote taken today by the House Judiciary Committee is an important step toward completing our journey,” said the speaker.
The legislation (2013-H 5015 Sub. A) removes gender-specific language from the section of the general laws that governs eligibility for marriage. It inserts language that allows any person to marry any other eligible person, regardless of gender.
It contains a provision that allows couples who entered into civil unions in Rhode Island to convert those unions to marriages, and automatically converts all remaining civil unions that have not been dissolved by Jan. 1, 2014, into marriages on that date. Rhode Island has allowed civil unions since July 2011, but relatively few have been performed.
The bill reiterates constitutionally guaranteed freedom for religious institutions to set their own guidelines for marriage eligibility within their faith, and stipulation that under no circumstances will clergy or others authorized to perform marriages be obligated by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage.Bravo Rhode Island!
Rhode Island is currently the only New England state that does not allow same-sex marriage, although Gov. Lincoln Chafee issued an executive order last year requiring state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.
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