The Rhode Island Senate is poised to vote on a bill that will legalize same-sex marriage as of August 1, making it the last of the New England states to do so. Having passed the House in January, and the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 7-3 vote on Tuesday, the bill is expected to face little opposition in the Senate.
All five Republicans in the state Senate voiced their support for Senate bill 38 in a statement released on Tuesday. “We support Senate Bill 38 because it rightfully extends the civil aspects of marriage to all Rhode Islanders while protecting the freedom of religion our state was founded upon,” the statement reads. “Gay and lesbian couples deserve to be treated equally under the law, and at the same time churches, synagogues and mosques in our state must be free to exercise their faith and their sacraments as they see fit. This bill strikes the right balance and should be passed by the Senate.”
According to a Brown University poll, over 60 percent of surveyed voters in Rhode Island are “strongly in favor” of same-sex marriage. Still, some legislators oppose the measure. Senate president Teresa Paiva Weed, as well as Democratic senators Dominick J. Ruggerio, Michael McCaffrey, Frank Lombardi, and Harold Metts are all expected to vote against the measure.
If the bill passes the Senate, Governor Lincoln Chafee will sign the bill into law. In an interview with a local Providence news channel, the governor said, “Well, look at the vote in the House. What was it, 51-19? An overwhelming vote. I would have preferred to go right from that vote right over to the Senate. Take that momentum, get this done, and spread the message that Rhode Island’s a hip, happening place welcome to everybody.”
Senate Bill 38 is expected to come to a vote in the coming week; if so, Rhode Island could become the 10th state to end discrimination by allowing same-sex marriage.
AP Photo/Steven Senne