Both men seeking the Democratic
nomination for Rhode Island governor, along with an Independent
candidate, say they'll back a gay marriage bill.
Attorney General Patrick Lynch and
General Treasurer Frank Caprio, along with Senator Lincoln Chafee,
the Independent, have agreed they'll sign a gay marriage bill if
elected, gay rights group Marriage
Equality Rhode Island announced Monday. The three candidates
will make their pledge at a Statehouse rally scheduled for March 3.
The state's two Republican candidates
oppose giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.
Rhode Island is the only New England
state that has not legalized gay marriage. Last year, Maine
lawmakers approved a gay marriage bill, but opponents successfully
repealed the law after a difficult fight that drew national attention
to the tiny state.
A pro-gay marriage governor could be a
game changer for Rhode Island, whose lawmakers have debated gay
nuptials 13 years running.
Supporters are banking on next year's
end of Republican Governor Don Carcieri's administration, which is
limited to two terms, to help rebuild momentum on the issue.
“I think that it's really important
that the people of Rhode Island understand that this can be a reality
here sooner rather than later,” Kathy Kushnir, executive director
of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, told the AP. “One of the major
obstacles we face right now is a veto from the governor's office, and
that would be gone.”
Carcieri publicly supports placing a
gay marriage ban in the Rhode Island Constitution. And last spring,
he and his wife, Sue, joined the state's newly minted chapter of the
National Organization for Marriage, the nation's most vociferous
opponent of gay marriage.
Next year, the speakership of the House
is also expected to be held by a pro-gay marriage lawmaker. Gordon
Fox, an openly gay man, is widely expected to replace House Speaker
William Murphy, who intends to step down.