With the passage of gay marriage in New
Hampshire on Wednesday, Rhode Island becomes the lone New England
state to not grant gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.
Lawmakers in the state have considered
a gay marriage bill every year for the past 12 years without a single
legislative vote cast on the issue. While other New England states
moved ahead with civil unions for gay couples, activists in the
nation's smallest state kept pressing for marriage.
And as the end of the legislative
session approaches, another gay marriage bill appears to have stalled
out in the Legislature.
Senators heard testimony on the bill in
February and House members in May. Both meetings proved contentious
as gay and lesbian rights advocates tangled with opponents. The
Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence continues in its role as the
primary opponent of the legislation, likening the institution to
“The fact that two adults consent to
an action doesn't make it morally right or socially acceptable,”
Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Diocese, said in written
testimony in February. “After all, two consenting adults can
engage in drug use, prostitution, bigamy, polygamy or other immoral
While Democrats dominate the Rhode
Island Legislature and polling indicates that a majority (60%) of
voters approve of gay marriage, lawmakers and Governor Donald
Carcieri, a Republican, continue to reject the legislation.
In April, Carcieri and his wife, Sue,
announced they had joined the Rhode Island chapter of the National
Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nationwide group that has
campaigned against gay marriage in California and New England,
leaving little doubt that he would veto a gay marriage bill if
lawmakers elected to send him one.
While advocates in the state continue
to lobby lawmakers for passage this year – a noontime rally is
being held Saturday at the Capital – they're thinking 2010, at
which time the term-limited governor's 8-year term will be over.
“I am always hopeful,” Kathy
Kushnir, executive director of Marriage
Equality Rhode Island (MERI), told On Top Magazine.
“We're so close to getting marriage equality in Rhode Island.”