R.I. marriage activists look to 2011

by Joe Siegel

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday June 1, 2010

Same-sex couples hoping to wed in Rhode Island will have to wait at least another year because the state Assembly has no plans to vote on a bill that would legalize marriage for gays and lesbians.

When legislators elected state Rep. Gordon Fox (D-Providence) as House Majority Leader last February, many LGBT activists hoped a vote on a bill would take place during this legislative session. Fox, who is openly gay, would like the state to allow same-sex couples to marry.

However, no hearings on the bill have been held before the House or Senate Judiciary Committees and the legislative session for the year is winding down. Lawmakers have focused much of their attention on creating a budget for the next fiscal year, as well as trying to deal with a massive deficit.

Marriage advocates are not throwing in the towel just yet. They believe lawmakers will pass a bill next year, once Gov. Don Carcieri leaves office.

As EDGE previously reported, five gubernatorial candidates appeared at a State House rally in March to affirm their support for marriage for same-sex couples. Attorney General Patrick Lynch, General Treasurer Frank Caprio, Former Senator Lincoln Chafee, Todd Giroux, and Ken Block all pledged to sign the measure into law if elected.

"We're anxious to look ahead to 2011," said Kathy Kushnir, executive director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island.

Support for marriage is growing among state legislators as well as the public, Kushnir noted. MERI is focusing their attention on helping pro-gay legislators to win re-election this fall.

"Legislators do not get defeated on the issue of equality," added Kushnir. "They do not get defeated on the issue of marriage."

Kushnir has nothing but favorable words for Fox, who she sees as a valuable ally in the fight for marriage.

"We are thrilled having a leader of his stature there and we are looking forward to working with him in the future," she said. "It takes everybody time to get their footing and figure our how to do their best job. I think (Fox) has done an amazing job of putting his leadership philosophy in place."

Meanwhile, marriage opponents are not giving up either.

The Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage has announced their second annual Celebrate Marriage and Family Day. The event will be held on Aug. 15 at the Aldrich Mansion in Warwick. Glenn Stanton from Focus on the Family will be a featured speaker.

"This is a great opportunity to take a stand for marriage as it was created: between a man and a woman," read a statement on NOM's Web site. "Our goal is to esteem marriage to its proper place in society and make a statement that Rhode Islanders believe strongly in this cherished institution."

Last year's event drew protests from Queer Action and other LGBT groups; there hasn't been any announcement regarding similar demonstrations this year.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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