April 18, 2013
Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, the coalition group spearheading marriage equality legislation through the state legislature this year, released two web ads yesterday and plans to hold three lobbying events this week in anticipation of an expected vote on the bill in the state Senate next week, Metro Weekly reported.
The first ad, “Ultimate Commitment,” features North Kingstown couple Martha Hold Castle and Patty Castle talking about their marriage in Massachusetts and their desire that Rhode Island provide their marriage full legal recognition for the benefit of their son Tobin. In the second ad, titled “Empowered,” Father Edmund Harris of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in East Providence discusses his joy at presiding over marriage ceremonies. ”As a priest,” Father Harris says in the ad, “I’m already empowered to decide which couples I’m going to marry. Senate Bill 38 provides the same kind of protections to all faith communities in Rhode Island.”
“These ads are coming at a critical time and augment the unprecedented grassroots campaign that is actively engaging Rhode Island voters with their senators all across the state,” Ray Sullivan, Rhode Islanders United for Marriage’s campaign director, said in a statement. Sullivan’s group announced on Twitter that it would be holding a ‘Weekend of Action’ at its Providence office this coming Saturday and Sunday. Canvasses are planned for both days, while a phone bank is planned for Sunday.
The Rhode Island House passed its own version of SB38 in late January by a vote of 51-19, while the Senate Judiciary Committee conducted a marathon hearing on SB38 late last month that lasted more than 12 hours. Last week, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed said that she expects a full Senate vote on the measure by the end of April. The Senate is currently on spring recess, and will reconvene next Monday, making a committee vote for next week quite likely.
As I wrote about in some depth last month before the judiciary committee took up SB38, the marriage equality bill will likely rise or fall in the Senate on the issue of religious exemptions. Sen. Frank Ciccone has introduced another marriage bill which would put the issue to a ballot referendum in 2014, but which would include broad exemptions language that could allow even private citizens to deny goods and services to same-sex couples on the basis of their religious beliefs. The Senate Judiciary Committee considered that bill on the same day as SB38.
Senate Bill 38 currently looks like it will garner enough votes in committee to proceed to the Senate floor. Marriage equality advocates in the state are confident that it will pass if it is allowed a full floor vote.
Below the jump, watch the two new videos from Rhode Islanders United.