January 22, 2013
By Jacob Combs
The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee will hold a vote today on a marriage equality bill that has been introduced to the state legislature. The bill is expected to pass, and could go to the full House floor, where equality advocates in the state feel confident they have the votes they need for passage, later this week. The bill’s prospects are less certain in the state Senate, where Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed, who opposes marriage equality, has announced she will allow a committee vote to occur, which she has declined to do in the past. We’ll have an update on the results of the committee vote when it occurs.
The Rhode Island committee vote will be the second vote for equal marriage rights in 2013: the Illinois Senate Executive Committee approved a marriage equality bill in that state by an 8-5 margin in early January, as advocates pushed for passage of the bill in the lame-duck session. Those plans were thwarted by several absences by important yes votes for marriage equality, so the bill is now being pursued in the new legislative session.
Speaking to ChicagoPride.com, Illinois state Senator Heather Steans, the marriage equality bill’s sponsor in the upper house, said that she believes the chance of passage for the bill is “great” and told the site the following:
“As I’m talking to members, people have really come along,” Steans said. ”You know, we passed civil unions here two years ago. And the nature of the conversations I’m having with my colleagues just two years later is very different. I think there’s really been a sea change of public opinion on this. Every day we see more people supporting what’s fair under our laws and treating everybody the same. So, it’s been very encouraging and heartening.”
We’re also expecting briefs to be filed today in both of the marriage equality cases that the Supreme Court will consider in March. In the DOMA case Windsor v. USA, today’s brief will address the issue of whether or not the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) or the Justice Department have standing to pursue the appeal. In the Prop 8 case, today’s brief will be filed by the proponents of Prop 8. We’ll have PDFs of those briefs on the site as soon as we can get our hands on them, and we’ll also be providing full analysis. There’s no set timetable for when they must be submitted today, so check back here early and often for updates!
Update (1:20 p.m.): The House Judiciary Committee meeting during which the marriage equality bill will be considered is scheduled to begin today at 3 p.m.