A key Rhode Island Senate committee has
scheduled a legislative hearing on a proposal to legalize gay
marriage in the state.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will
hold the hearing on Thursday.
The panel will also consider a bill
which seeks to put the issue up to a popular vote next year. That
bill was introduced on Wednesday by Senator Frank Ciccone, a
Ciccone's measure includes broad
exemptions based on religious beliefs. It would exempt priests,
rabbis, fraternal societies and “any small business” from having
to participate in a marriage ceremony that “violates the
institution or business owner's religious beliefs.”
Ciccone told the Providence
Journal that he sponsored the bill in hopes it “would put
an end to the question of gay marriage.”
“The two chambers have devoted enough
time and effort on gay marriage,” Ciccone told the paper. “There
are bigger things and more worries in the state right now that my
constituents have been complaining about.”
The House overwhelmingly approved the
marriage equality bill in January but passage remains in doubt in the
Senate, where Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed is an opponent.