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Same-sex marriage bills face Senate

Both bills could legalize same-sex marriage, though one would require a referendum

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Senate Judiciary committee will meet Thursday to hear two same-sex marriage bills, including one that would legalize same-sex marriage — the Senate version of the bill that passed the House in January.

The committee is not planning to vote on the legislation at this meeting, said Greg Pare, director of communications for the President of the Senate. But the hearing could be the first step toward a vote in the coming weeks or months.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Donna Nesselbush ’84, D-Pawtucket, would legalize same-sex marriage and replace the same-sex civil union law passed by the General Assembly in 2011. The legislation would also include measures that aim to safeguard freedom of religion, including a clause that would exempt religious leaders that do not approve of same-sex marriage from having to perform or endorse same-sex marriages.

The bill is supposed to come to a vote in the Judiciary committee, but its fate remains uncertain due to split support among the 10 committee members. If the committee supports the legislation, it would go to the floor of the Senate for a vote by the entire body. Despite a significant Democratic majority in the Senate, passage remains far from guaranteed as several prominent leaders, including Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed, D-Newport, oppose same-sex marriage.

The House passed a similar bill by an overwhelming majority Jan. 25.

The second piece of legislation scheduled for a hearing would ask voters to approve or reject a constitutional amendment legalizing same-sex marriage in a statewide referendum. The resolution would add a question to the 2014 ballot that reads, “Approval of this amendment will recognize and define marriage in the state of Rhode Island as a legally recognized union of two … people,” with the option to approve or reject the amendment. The bill was introduced by Sen. Frank Ciccone, D-Providence and has 10 co-sponsors. Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 has previously stated that he would veto any bill that tried to put same-sex marriage up for referendum.

Ciccone’s resolution includes provisions that exempt religious leaders, religious groups and small businesses that do not approve of same-sex marriage on religious grounds from providing goods or services for a “ceremony of solemnization or celebration of a marriage which violates the small business owner’s religious beliefs.” The text of the bill prevents these organizations from being sued for their failures to provide their services to a same-sex couple for a wedding.

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  1. Both U.S. Senators support this, including the 2 congressman who represent the state. The Governor clearly supports it. He has made his position know before 2011. I personally believe that the only block to these bills in the Senate Judiciary Committee to be honest.

    I think it could pass the Senate it will be very close, but I believe it or not I believe the Republicans will push this over a believe 2 already said I support this. I mean even if the other measure doesn’t support out of committee. I would assume they would try and amendment the bill to make it go to the people anyway.

    I know the house wouldn’t even allow that measure to crossover and if it does the Governor said he would veto. I mean, they could go constitutional amendment like Senator Frank Ciccone is pushing for then they wouldn’t need the governor. Yet the house will not allow it.

    Also important to note in the Senate some members will not support marriage equality. Some members will not support it going to the people. Any some flat out don’t support it at all.

  2. Calling something marriage does not make it marriage. Marriage has always been a covenant between a man and a woman which is by its nature ordered toward the procreation and education of children and the unity and wellbeing of the spouses.

    The promoters of same-sex “marriage” propose something entirely different. They propose the union between two men or two women. This denies the self-evident biological, physiological, and psychological differences between men and women which find their complementarity in marriage. It also denies the specific primary purpose of marriage: the perpetuation of the human race and the raising of children.

    • Ad Hoc Heckler says:

      Mr. John Ritchie

      You said – Marriage has always been a covenant between a man and a woman which is by its nature ordered toward the procreation and education of children and the unity of wellbeing of the spouses.
      First, I agree with the sentiment. Second, it isn’t correct. Marriage is not defined by Christian belief but by a much larger scale and diversity of world beliefs that predate the Christian religion. While it is easy to loose sight of these facts as we live in a country that was based on Christian morality for the most part, we are a mostly secular nation.
      The gist of the argument for me falls on “all men are created equal” but if someone practices a sexual orientation that is counter to the established norm, they are no longer equal in the eyes of our judiciary system which is supposedly blind in its application.
      Peace, good luck to you and yours.

  3. Why do these idiots keep trying to impose genderless “marriage” on this state? Is it just political correctness gone crazy, or are they really that disrespectful of the people who elected them? Get a grip you guys. Quit trying to remove the gender requirement from marriage! That’s just stupid. Marriage is solely the union of one man and one woman. What’s next? Removing the age requirement for marriage? Removing the restriction on multiple marriages? Removing the words “mother” and “father,” “husband” and “wife,” and “bride” and “groom” from every text book and every state document? I don’t think so.

    • Fernan Balsalubre says:

      No offense, Karen, but if marriage was such a Christian institution, and if God created marriage, then why did he knock up another man’s wife?

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