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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 8, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 6
Rhode Island Bar Association endorses marriage equality
Section One
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Rhode Island Bar Association endorses marriage equality

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Rhode Island Bar Association executive committee and its House of Delegates have both endorsed the marriage equality bill now pending in the state Senate. Rhode Islanders United for Marriage announced the Bar Association's endorsement on February 4.

The measure passed the Rhode Island House of Representatives on January 24 by a lopsided 51-19 vote. Its prospects in the Senate remain uncertain, however. Democrats control the Senate by a margin of 32 to 5, but not all Democratic senators support the bill.

Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed, Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, and Senate Judiciary Committee chair Michael McCaffrey, all Democrats, oppose the measure. All three are devout Roman Catholics. Some 64% of Rhode Island residents are Catholic, the highest proportion of any state.

DEBATE PROMISED
Nevertheless, Paiva-Weed promised a 'full and fair debate' in the Senate. This represents a huge step forward for equality supporters, since in past sessions Senate leaders have refused to allow the legislation to come up for debate.

Paiva-Weed said in an interview after the House vote that she and many of her Senate colleagues are 'genuinely struggling with this issue.'

'The debate and the discussion in the Senate will be very real, and neither I nor anybody else ... really knows what the final outcome of that will be,' she added.

Governor Lincoln Chafee supports equality and has promised to sign the bill if the Senate passes it.

'I urge Senate leadership to 'call the roll,' Chafee said in a statement, 'for our economy, for our Gay and Lesbian friends and neighbors, and for history.'

'We are in intense competition with Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts,' Chafee said in a February 5 interview. 'We are all in the same economy. We have to have the same welcome mat at our door that our neighbors have.' Rhode Island is the only New England state that still does not allow same-sex marriage.

A former Republican who succeeded his father, John Chafee, in the U.S. Senate, Chafee won the governorship as an independent in 2010, after endorsing President Obama and describing 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin as a 'wacko.'

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