A Rhode Island Senate panel will
consider the issue of gay marriage on Thursday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will
review a proposed measure which seeks to make Rhode Island the 10th
state to legalize such unions and a proposed referendum which would
put the issue in the hands of voters to decide.
Marriage equality advocates have
criticized the referendum because it includes broad exemptions based
on religious beliefs, including allowing small businesses not to
participate in a marriage ceremony that “violates the institution
or business owner's religious beliefs.”
Senator Frank Ciccone, a Republican,
said 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 Providence
Journal. “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.