Rhode Island Senate Committee Advances Marriage Equality Bill

Jim Burroway

April 23rd, 2013

The Rhode Island state Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon advanced a bill allowing same-sex marriage and has sent the bills to the Senate floor. According to a press release from the committee:

The amended companion bills, sponsored by Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston) and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence), remove gender-specific language from the section of the general laws that governs eligibility for marriage. They insert language that allows any person to marry any other eligible person, regardless of gender, effective Aug. 1, 2013.

The bills (2013-H 5015B 2013-H , 2013-S 0038A) also reiterate constitutionally guaranteed freedom for religious institutions to set their own guidelines for marriage eligibility within their faith, and stipulate 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. Additionally, a religious organization, association, or society, and any nonprofit institution operated, supervised or controlled by a religious or fraternal organization shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges to an individual if they are related to:

  • The solemnization of marriage or the celebration of a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs and faith; and
  • The promotion of marriage through any social or religious program or services, which violates the religious doctrine of that religious organization, association or society.

The committee approved the legislation in a 7-4 vote. Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Providence) does not sit on the committee, but his position gives him the right to cast a vote if he so chooses. As expected, Ruggerio exercised that right and voted against the legislation. Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed (D-Newport) declined her right to cast a vote. The committee also voted down another proposal to place the issue before voters in a statewide referendum.

Rhode Island’s House of Representatives voted 51 to 19 to pass the bill bill last January. If the bills pass the Senate, they will be returned to the House for approval of the Senate’s changes. Governor Lincoln D. Chafee (D) has promised to sign the legislation if it reaches his desk.

The legislation is scheduled to be brought up for a vote in the Senate at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. Earlier this morning, all five Republican Senators announced their support for the bills.

F Young

April 23rd, 2013

So, would the religious exemption allow a Catholic adoption agency to refuse to place children in same-sex married households?

If so, I don’t like it, because it disregards the child’s best interest, and it’s probably highly subsidized through tax dollars.

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