It's all about hearings on gay marriage
in Rhode Island. The smallest state in the union is apparently also
the scrappiest; scheduling debates – not votes – on the issue of
Last night they held another and it was
a heated altercation, reports The Providence Journal.
Priests mingled with gay and lesbian
couples during an evening House Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday
on two proposed gay marriage bills – one would legalize the
institution, while the other would place the question before voters.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of
Providence continues in its role as the primary opponent to gay
marriage in Rhode Island. “It has been and continues to be the
consistent teaching of the Catholic Church as well as the existing
state law that marriage is the union of a man and a woman,” Rev.
Bernard Healey testified.
In February, a Senate Judiciary
Committee heard testimony on Republican Senator Leo Blais' bill that
would limit marriage to a heterosexual union by amending the state
constitution and the Senate version of the gay marriage bill.
“Contrary to the assertion of others,
this is not an issue about civil rights. Freedom is not unbridled
license. ... In short, there's never a right to do something wrong.
... The fact that two adults consent to an action doesn't make it
morally right or socially acceptable. After all, two consenting
adults can engage in drug use, prostitution, bigamy, polygamy or
other immoral activities,” Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the
Diocese of Providence, said in written testimony.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has yet
to vote on either measure.
In fact, the heated debate in Rhode
Island has been plugging along for 12 long years without a single
legislative vote cast on the issue.
“It is embarrassing and insulting
that I have come before you again to beg for the constitutional right
of Rhode Island's citizens to marry the people we love,” said
openly gay state Representative Frank Ferri, a Democrat from Warwick.
Democrats dominate the Rhode Island
Legislature and polling indicates that a small majority of voters
would reject a gay marriage ban, but lawmakers and Governor Donald
Carcieri, a Republican, in this predominantly Catholic state continue
to reject gay marriage.
Last month, Carcieri and his wife, Sue,
they had joined the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization
for Marriage (NOM), a group that opposes gay marriage.
The announcement left little doubt that
Carcieri would veto a gay marriage bill if lawmakers elected to send
him one, leaving Rhode Island an island in a sea of marriage
equality. Four New England states have legalized gay marriage and a
bill approved by the New Hampshire Legislature awaits Governor John