January 24, 2013
By Scottie Thomaston
The Rhode Island state House of Representatives has just voted in favor of marriage equality by a vote of 51-19. The bill now goes to the Senate where passage is uncertain, but Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, a Democrat, has said she will allow a committee vote to occur. Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, an independent, will sign the legislation if it reaches his desk.
Marriage equality legislation was first introduced in the Rhode Island legislature in 1997 and has been re-introduced unsuccessfully in every year since. This is the first time it has passed out of committee and been approved by one of the houses of the Rhode Island General Assembly. If the legislation is signed into law, Rhode Island would become the 10th state in the Union to provide equal marriage rights to same-sex couples and the last state in New England to do so, making that are the first region in the United States with full marriage equality.
Congratulations, Rhode Island!
Governor Chafee has issued a statement:
There are certain legislative votes that can fairly be characterized as “historic.” The Rhode Island House of Representatives’ overwhelming passage of marriage equality legislation is one such vote.
I think most immediately of the pioneers of the House who have been working to achieve this goal for many years. Former state representatives such as Michael Pisaturo, who first introduced the Equal Access to Marriage Act in the mid-1990s, David Cicilline, who was the lone member of the House Judiciary Committee to vote in favor of marriage equality legislation in 2001, and Ray Sullivan. And current members such as Speaker Fox, Chairwoman Ajello, Deputy Majority Leader Ferri, and Chairman Handy, the bill’s longtime sponsor. I think also of activists such as the late Julie Pell, who certainly would have been encouraged to see this significant step forward.
Although this vote is indeed historic, there is still a long way to go. Now that the House has swiftly acted, I urge Senate leadership to “call the roll” – for our economy, for our gay and lesbian friends and neighbors, and for history.
Rep. David N. Cicilline also has a statement:
Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to pass marriage equality in the House and recognize the dignity and equality of LGBT relationships.