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Cranston's Rep. Handy Sponsors Gay Marriage Bill, Passage Likely

Cranston State Rep. Arthur Handy has submitted the bill every year for more than a decade. This year could be the year it finally gets to a floor vote.

For 10 years, Cranston Rep. Arthur Handy has introduced the same bill every legislative session that would allow same-sex couple to marry.

This year, his bill might actually get passed as House Speaker Gordon Fox has pledged to put a vote to the floor by the end of the month.

The legislation has broad support, with 42 members of the House signing on as sponsors and 11 members of the Senate.

“We are long overdue. Rhode Island, the colony founded on the principle of personal liberty, is now the only New England state that doesn’t allow same-gender couples equal marriage. Rhode Islanders recognize that same-gender couples deserve the rights and responsibilities that other couples already enjoy, and support has been getting wider every year. We know this can pass the House this year, and we know that Governor Chafee will sign it if we get it to him. This bill is about ending discrimination and creating true equality for all Rhode Islanders, promotes family stability and it affords plentiful protection for religious freedom. For the sake of all of those families who hang in the balance, we need marriage equality now,” said Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), the lead sponsor in the House who has introduced the bill annually for over a decade.

Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush, a second-term senator who is openly gay, is taking the lead in the Senate this year after the retirement of the perennial Senate sponsor, former senator Rhoda E. Perry. Senator Nesselbush says the issue is “intensely personal” for her as well as thousands of other Rhode Islanders, and a matter of being on the “right side of history.”

“After many years, I have finally found the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with, the woman I want to marry. We are both spiritual and want to deepen and strengthen our devotion. We are deeply in love, and are hoping and praying for marriage equality so we can tie the knot. But this is not about me or us. This is about the thousands of loving gay and lesbian couples who want and deserve the right to marry,” said Senator Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket.) “I take my work and my civic responsibilities very seriously, and it’s ironic that I am qualified to be the chief judge of the City of Pawtucket and a state senator but somehow not qualified to marry.  If my conservative father were alive, even he would say ‘That’s just plain wrong and there ought to be a law.’ I implore my colleagues to join me in casting a vote on the right side of history…. The train has left the station. Marriage equality is inevitable. Young people cannot even understand why this is an issue. A crescendo is building, and most Rhode Islanders want us to enact marriage equality.”

Speaker Fox, who is also gay, is the first cosponsor listed on the House bill. He has indicated he is interested in bringing it before the full House for a vote early in the session. A vote is expected in the Senate Judiciary Committee if the vote passes the House. The legislation, which will be assigned to each chamber’s respective Judiciary Committee, has never previously come out of committee for a vote on the floor of either chamber. 

“Senate President [M. Teresa] Paiva Weed has honorably promised that there will be a vote on the issue, and with nine states, the District of Columbia and the president of the United States all embracing marriage equality, we have never been closer,” said Senator Nesselbush. “Let this be the year Rhode Island joins the burgeoning force for equality that is sweeping our nation.”

The legislation 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.

Additionally, it includes language stating that marriage is recognized by the state to promote stable relationships and provide important legal protections to couples and their immediate and extended families.

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.

“Regarding religious freedom, no religious organziation should or will be required to perform a wedding that is contrary to their faith. At the same time, no faith that does support marriages between people of the same gender should be barred from performing them either. Our current law is actually violating their religious freedom,” said Represenative Handy.

Rhode Island passed a law in 2011 allowing civil unions for same-gender couples as a compromise measure, but relatively few have taken advantage of it, and many have criticized civil unions as a less-than-equal offering to same-gender couples.

In September, a WPRI poll of 501 likely voters in Rhode Island found that 56 percent of Rhode Islanders support same-gender marriage, and only 36 percent oppose it.

The sponsors of the bill in the House include:

  • Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston)
  • House Speaker Gordon D. Fox (D-Dist. 4, Providence)
  • Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence)
  • Rep. Elaine A. Coderre (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket)
  • House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston)
  • Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence)
  • Rep. Frank G. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick)
  • Rep. J. Patrick O’Neill (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket)
  • Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown)
  • Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence)
  • Rep. Larry Valencia (D-Dist. 39, Richmond, Exeter, Hopkinton)
  • Rep. Thomas Palangio (D-Dist. 3, Providence)
  • Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett)
  • Rep. Eileen S. Naughton (Dist. 21, Warwick)
  • Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston)
  • Rep. Karen MacBeth (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland)
  • Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth)
  • Rep. William O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence)
  • Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown)
  • Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence)
  • Rep. Lisa P. Tomasso (D-Dist. 29, Coventry, West Greenwich)
  • Rep. Agostinho F. Silva (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls)
  • Rep. Donna M. Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly)
  • Rep. Katherine Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence)
  • Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln)
  • Rep. Linda Finn (D-Dist. 72, Middletown, Portsmouth)
  • Rep. Cale P. Keable (D-Dist. 47, Burrillville, Glocester)
  • Rep. Gregg M. Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence)
  • Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence)
  • Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Little Compton, Portsmouth, Tiverton)
  • Rep. Peter F. Martin (D-Dist. 75, Newport)
  • Rep. Scott J. Guthrie (D-Dist. 28, Coventry)
  • Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence)
  • Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket)
  • Rep. Maria E. Cimini (D-Dist. 7, Providence)
  • Rep. Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren)
  • Rep. Robert E. Craven Sr. (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown)
  • Rep. Donald J. Lally Jr. (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett)
  • Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence)
  • Rep. Mary Duffy Messier (D-Dist. 62, Pawtucket)
  • Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick)
  • Rep. William San Bento Jr. (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket).
  • The sponsors of the bill in the Senate include:
  • Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket)
  • Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham)
  • Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence)
  • Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence)
  • Sen. Christopher Scott Ottiano (R-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol)
  • Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick)
  • Sen. Gayle Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence)
  • Sen. Catherine Cool Rumsey (D-Dist. 34, Exeter, Charlestown, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich)
  • Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick)
  • Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln)
  • Sen. Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, Johnston, North Providence).
Cranston Res January 07, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Hi Foxey, I wasn't responding to your concern directed towards Rep. Gordon. I do agree with his viewpoint on NDAA. First of all, I do not identify as LGBT, but I surely have no problem being associated with the group as an ally. I agree with your feelings about Chafee, he doesn't know anything. In my opinion, the future for Rhode Island's economy isn't with manufacturing or jewelry. These jobs are not coming back to the state. Our biggest hope is with tourism. This would bring revenue to the cities and bring down property taxes, which I know Cranston residents have been praying for for many years. How does this apply? Gay marriage does benefit the economy. In just one quarter, gay marriage added $259 million to NYC's economy. Also, a study suggests that Maine, Maryland and Washington will collect $166 million over three years from gay marriage. I haven't seen such a study on RI, but while it obviously will not generate the revenue of NYC, it will help the economy. Especially with wedding locations like Newport, Narragansett, etc. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/12/gay-marriage-and-the-economy_n_2118622.html http://money.cnn.com/2012/07/24/pf/gay-marriage-economic-impact/index.htm
Joe The Plumber January 07, 2013 at 06:08 PM
This mentality is precisely why 24,000 people left this miserable state.
Robert E January 25, 2013 at 08:52 PM
What i can't figure out is when the high priests and pharisees had the romans put Christ to death for his homosexual lifstyle his followers could be so homophobic. If you truly read the new testament it is so clear that Jesus was gay. Is that what scares you so much.
Justin Jay April 23, 2013 at 05:08 PM
I'm sorry, but this should have been a discussion taken up many years ago, when things were good. Unfortunately, the economy in RI is bad NOW and though there are measures and ideas being taken to deal with these issues, a topic that has been a topic for years is finally getting addressed. It should! Quote the bible! Quote the past! You can even say you don't like the idea of 2 men kissing one another! Hell, it doesn't make me feel good when I see it. However, I do believe that homosexuality has been around a lot longer than the people who are currently making decisions to run this government. It's a global thing. It doesn't mean people are going to start wanting to marry animals (an absurd argument. People that brought it up should be ashamed of such uneducated thinking.) To further the point, the government has always made a case about keeping certain religions from affecting government too much. It was a big worry among people for Catholic Democrat John F. Kennedy and the pope's influence continues to be a worry for most non-catholic people today. I am of no religion, so honestly, I could care less other than it's disappointing and sad that 2 human beings cannot be together. I was married to a woman. I'm divorced. It's no different than marriage people. The idea of 2 people of the same gender having sex might give you the "heebie-geebies" but hey! You're not the one who's living that way of living. So WHY are you determining something of which you're not apart?
Justin Jay April 23, 2013 at 05:37 PM
You know what the best part to all of this is. I can put my full name out there to discuss this issue, yet I see the names of Joe The Plumber. Really? The guy from the 2008 election? Nothing more clever than that? If you're going to be an opposition of gay marriage, be real. Don't be a fictitious character hiding behind names so you can throw your opinion around like it should matter. I don't like a lot of the things RI has done to try fix this crap, weak economy... but Gay Marriage matters. It IS important, especially to those that are unemployed... and gay. I hope you're smart enough to figure out why.

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