The Rhode Island House of Representatives this afternoon, after a 16-year journey, passed a same-sex marriage equality bill by a vote of 51-19. The bill was fully expected to pass, and now heads to the Rhode Island Senate, where passage will be a battle. If the Senate does pass the bill, Governor Lincoln Chafee will sign the bill into law.
“You can define marriage any way you want, we’ve had a marriage for 32 years,” said openly-gay Rep. Frank Ferri (image, above), adding that this bill “is for everybody here, everybody in Rhode Island.”
Today’s House session was opened by a 12-year old delivering the Pledge of Allegiance. Matthew, who is the son of a same-sex lesbian couple, last week won the hearts of many during the marriage equality debate, and was asked to open today’s hearings.
Quoting the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, relating personal stories, conversations with neighbors, faith leaders, and other heart-warming stories, lawmakers like Representative Joe MacNamara, Rep. Edith Ajello, and Rep. John G. Edwards argued eloquently for the bill’s passage.
Rep. Chris Blazejewski said, ”We’re voting to extend the same rights that nearly all of us in this chamber have to gay and lesbian couples,” and, “This is a day we celebrate the things that unite us, give us joy and love we extend them to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”
Other lawmakers were not so kind. Deputy Majority Leader Arthur Corvese, a Democrat allied with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), saying, “I intend to exercise my First Amendment right this evening,” called the bill the “single most important piece of legislation” ever in Rhode Island’s history, or future. He complained, saying he will be called a homophobe and a bigot, but defiantly stated labels don’t matter and opinion is “inconsequential.”
Corvese said gay marriage is an “irrevocable game changer” and questioned that his colleagues do not “realize the enormity” of their vote. He railed against the “activist” members of the gay community, the “activist judges,” and “activist lawmakers,” and claimed the changes that happened to Massachusetts “are not for the common good.”
“Gay marriage is not about love,” Corvese lied, claiming the “criminal media,” and the “disinterested general public” have been hoodwinked, and added that gay marriage will impact every heterosexual marriage.
“Why not three people who love each other?” Corvese said, talking about polygamy and “small group marriages.”
“Gay marriage is not about civil rights,” Corvese lied again, claiming the bill offers a “complete absence for first amendment rights,” another lie.
GOP Rep. Doreen Costa, who claims she has gay friends who respect her, also claimed she had 85,000 signatures in opposition to the marriage equality bill.
Rep. James McLaughlin (D) attempted to introduce an amendment an rambled through a huge religion-based address that included his Roman Catholicism and morality, saying “it’s a tough call,” and complained that the bill does not protect faith-based groups like the Knights of Columbus from exercising bigotry and anti-gay hatred.
Rep. Joseph Trillo (R), claiming his opposition was not based on “any religious arguments,” said he would vote against equality because the word marriage has been exactly the same for 30,000 years.
“We’re not changing society, we’re making the law come up to where society already is,” said Rep. Nicholas Mattiello, who three years ago said he would have voted against the bill, but now voted for it.
And a rare Republican, Rep. Brian Newberry, said, “this is not rocket science,” and urged the Senate to not holdup the bill or use it as a “bargaining chip.”
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