3 E.P. Reps Sponsor Gay Marriage Bill

Reps. Gregg Amore, Katherine Kazarian, and Joy Hearn are among the 42 House members sponsoring legislation to allow same-gender couples to marry in RI.


Three legislators who represent East Providence are among the 42 members of the House to sponsor the legislation to allow same-gender couples to marry in Rhode Island.

The legislation was introduced Thursday, Jan. 3, in both General Assembly chambers, with a pledge from House Speaker Gordon Fox for a floor vote early in the session. Among the sponsors are Reps. Katherine Kazarian (D-63), Gregg Amore (D-65) and Joy Hearn (D-66).

The legislation also lists 11 members of the Senate as sponsors.

"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 Rep. 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.

Tony January 04, 2013 at 12:58 PM
This is so important. We don't have any unemployment, or a bad business climate. We have a great governor that has his finger on the pulse of everything in the state. Why does the this state run on the idea is that if it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, it's good for everyone. I could care less about gay marraige, and I don't understand why it's even a political football. Sure, if I don't think that it's significant, I must be a homophobe. Yeah, right. And I work in a state that have the most attractive business climate in the Union. These "elected" officials just don't get it. When Linc told O'Reilly, "you folks are just angry," he was right. We are a little jerked with the continuing line of thinking that wants to avoid real issues and problems. The officials here should visit a state like Georgia that knows how to run itself. One novel idea they have: A student maintains a good grade average, and they get a free ride to a state college, such as Georgia Tech, etc. They actually try to keep their people in the state to build the future. That's something this state can't even think of trying because they don't know how to manage anything. Do you really think that making gay marraige an issue does anything but make a very small segment happy? How is this even a "government " issue? Does anyone care for the future of the State? It's too bad that this issue is being used as a smokescreen to duck all the fiscal woes the State has.
Rumford Resident January 04, 2013 at 12:58 PM
The state's economy is 50th in the nation and the new reps see this as a top priority? If Amore had any stones at all he would allow this to be put on the ballot for all of the state's residents to vote on..... But for all of his pontificating, Amore is truly a Democratic hack who does not believe in allowing a pure democratic process and allowing voter initiative. Oh, and I am sure we will see Greg at a Catholic mass soon. Or maybe at Providence College. Why remain a part of a faith that you obviously disdain?
Tony January 04, 2013 at 01:03 PM
After reading this entire article twice, I have to say this state is a total mess.The priorites of personal gain once again reign supreme. The needs of the one, outweigh the needs of the many. That is not what the founding fathers constructed.
Govstench January 04, 2013 at 01:31 PM
Talk about misplaced priorities. Two out of three of these Reps are new and they think this is important? Unbelievable!
Non Kool Aid Drinker January 04, 2013 at 02:23 PM
Amore's next move will be some union agenda to support so I guess the gay marraige is a good thing to support. That is what we get for electing these people! We obviously like being at the bottom of the barrel. This is their version of helping the economy! He is a teacher who keeps telling us how good the school system is in East Providence when we know it is not and we expect him to go to the State House and do wounders. Keep drinking the Kool Aid!
Non Kool Aid Drinker January 04, 2013 at 02:25 PM
PS That would be wonders
dawn January 04, 2013 at 03:21 PM
It's obviously not important to people that are not affected by this Bill. I voted Amore and I am glad I did. You are not going to agree with every Bill put forth and it will not always pertain to you and your life. Have some compassion and feeling for others - it's really easy to do, try it!
Rags 1 January 04, 2013 at 09:17 PM
All elections have consequences, and society is ultimately responsible for its own preceived delinquency. We elect people to make decisions for us, not to generate referenda every time a tough decision comes their way. Comunicating with them instead of being a constant side-walk adviser is one of the answers. True, sometimes they don't listen but listen to the leadership or their special interests, but that is the system we live by.


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