April 8, 2013
Rhode Island Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed said yesterday that she expects a full Senate vote on marriage equality by the end of April, the Providence Journal reported.
Weed’s comments came shortly after two national religious figures came to Rhode Island to push for passage of the proposed bill, which was approved by the Rhode Island House in late January. From the AP:
“The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, president of the United Church of Christ, told more than 300 people at Providence’s First Unitarian Church that Rhode Island is ‘on the verge of change … of joining the choir of change across the nation.’
“Echoed the Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association: ‘The Rhode Island House has already passed it. Your governor says he will sign it. So now our task is to call upon the Senate of this state to make marriage equality the law of Rhode Island. Now is the time for the last push. The next few weeks are crucial to push the measure over the top.’”
“I feel very confident that the issue will be fully debated on the floor of the Senate at some point in April — sometime in the first couple of weeks after the break,” Pavia Weed said in her comments yesterday. The break she referred to is the General Assembly’s week-long spring break, after which the chamber will reconvene on April 22. Pavia Weed anticipates a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which must first approve the bill before it can go to the Senate floor, soon after that break, followed quickly by a full Senate debate.
Paiva Weed told the AP that Senate leadership and members of the Judiciary Committee have been “working through” two issues in the bill. The first question pertains to the legislation’s effect on Rhode Island’s current civil unions law, while the second–and potentially more problematic–debate involves what kind of religious exemptions should be included in the bill.
The Judiciary Committee convened for a marathon hearing on the bill in late March that lasted more than 12 hours until almost 5 a.m. the morning after it began. That committee’s members are closely divided on the measure, although it appears to have just enough support to be advanced to a floor vote, with at least 6 of 10 members expected to vote in favor of the bill.
According to the AP, Paiva Weed does not expect to be needed to cast a tie-breaking vote when the committee considers the bill, and anticipates further amendments to be presented when the full Senate takes up the legislation.