As state legislative sessions wind
down, we're just weeks away from learning whether lawmakers in New
Jersey and New York will pass gay marriage this year. And Rhode
With sensational headlines, farcical
characters and a dramatic gay marriage subplot, the New York Senate
stole the gay marriage spotlight for much of the spring. But
attention is certain to return to the tiny state of Rhode Island as
it ascends to new prominence as the lone New England holdout to not
grant gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.
Last month, New Hampshire Governor John
Lynch signed a gay marriage bill after neighboring states Vermont and
Maine pulled out surprise spring victories. Connecticut legalized
gay marriage last year and Massachusetts led the nation in 2004.
Leaving scenic Rhode Island out of the New England gay marriage
The Ocean State, however, has had
plenty of turns at bat: Lawmakers in the state have considered a gay
marriage bill every year for the past 12 years without a single bill
making it out of committee.
Gay marriage opponents are offering
their own counter proposal this year. Democratic State
Representative Jon Brien has introduced a bill that would place a gay
marriage ban in the state's constitution. And Governor Donald
Carcieri, a Republican, is in favor of the bill.
“Let the people decide,” he said
Thursday in an interview broadcast on CBN's 700
Club. “I have my own view personally but I think that's
the right way to deal with it. If the people of the state decide
they want to define marriage as between same gender persons, so be
“Every year we spend a large amount
of time debating this issue,” Brien said. “It's getting more and
more contentious and if we just put it to a vote, everyone knows
where the people of Rhode Island stand. Then it will be over with.”
Supporting the governor and Brien is
the nationwide anti-gay marriage group the National Organization for
Marriage, or NOM, which recently opened an office in the state after
Carcieri and his wife, Sue, joined the Rhode Island chapter of NOM.
But with 12 long years of debate and 5
years of gay marriage just a stone's throw away in Massachusetts,
Rhode Islanders have grown increasingly comfortable with the idea of
gay nuptials. In fact, a large majority (60%) of voters approve of
“To me, the issue of same-sex
marriage boils down to a question of basic fairness,” former Rhode
Island Senator Lincoln D. Chafee said Wednesday in an editorial in
gay weekly Bay
Windows. “Once you acknowledge that homosexuality exists
not by choice, the next obvious step is to grant gays and lesbians
the same liberties and freedoms as every other American.”
Without the governor's support,
however, gay activists are thinking 2011, 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.”
Flanked by a sea of marriage equality
and strong public support for gay nuptials, has Rhode Island become
the gay marriage Alamo?