By Steve Klamkin WPRO News
A coalition of some 20 groups supporting gay marriage in Rhode Island Monday introduced their push, aimed at getting the General Assembly to approve gay marriage rights in the 2013 session.
Rhode Islanders United for Marriage organizers say that they feel this is the year to seek passage of the bills. A number of backers gathered Monday at the United Church of Christ on Providence's East Side to back the drive toward gay marriage legislation.
"With more legislative sponsors and supporters in both chambers than ever before, this coalition will work hard to make 2013 the year that Governor Chafee finally signs this bill into law," said campaign director Ray Sullivan, "and Rhode Island becomes a place where all loving, committed couples are recognized, respected and treated equally."
A committee in the Rhode Island House has scheduled a hearing on Tuesday to take testimony, and House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is openly gay, has made it a priority to press for passage of the legislation early in the session. Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed has opposed gay marriage legislation in the past, but has signaled that this year, she would not stand in the way of votes on the issue in either committee on on the floor.
"I think it was honorable of our Senate President to say there's going to be a democratic vote on this issue," said Sen. Donna Nesselbush, a Pawtucket Democrat who is the only openly gay member of the state Senate.
"In the name of democracy, really from our General Assembly, that's all we can ask. Let's vote on it. Call that roll and I am confident that Rhode Island will stand as the other states, and you will see remarkable numbers approving marriage equality," said Nesselbush. Governor Chafee expressed his support.
"Rhode Island, as you all know has a legacy of tolerance, it is the ideal upon which we were founded by Roger Williams," said Chafee. "So, it's time to honor and affirm that legacy by ensuring that same sex couples can enjoy the same fundamental rights, benefits and privileges as all other citizens of our state."
Chafee said that he sees same sex marriage as not only a civil rights, but an economic development issue.
"Rhode Island's creative sector is one of our economic strengths. In competing with our neighbors to attract energetic, talented individuals, we must be as welcoming as possible. The three "T's", technology, talent and tolerance, that is how we will grow our economy in Rhode Island for the benefit of all Rhode Islanders.
More, at the group's website.