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Tiny Rhode Island state to face big battle for gay marriage

Tiny Rhode Island state to face big battle for gay marriage

Rhode Island’s Statehouse is set to start debating legalizing gay marriage today (15 January).

Supporters of gay marriage said they will protest in front of the Statehouse to urge lawmakers to legalize marriage equality.

If successful it would be the smallest and tenth state to legalize gay marriage and the last do so in New England, report AP.

House Speaker Gordon Fox, an openly gay Democrat, has called a vote on gay marriage by the end of the month.

The House Judiciary Committee is set to hear testimonies from supporters and opponents on today.

Commentators say the debate and process may take considerable time.

Equality campaigners lead by Fox hope the measure will pass the House vote, but are concerned that it would meet more opposition in the state’s Senate.

Teresa Paiva Weed, president of the state Senate, opposes gay marriage opponent but has said she will allow a committee vote on the legislation should it pass the House.

Equality campaigners are hoping that the national momentum following voting for gay marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington will help their campaign in Rhode Island.

State governor, Lincoln Davenport Chafee, now an independent after leaving the Republican party, came out in support of gay marriage and asked state lawmakers to join the rest of New England.

Invoking the memory of Roger Williams who founded of Rhode Island as a beacon of religious tolerance and friendship with the native Americans he said yesterday: ’It is time to honor and affirm that legacy.

‘Call the roll for Roger Williams. Call the roll for history and I’ll be happy to sign it’.

Chafee has already signed an executive order recognizing gay marriages performed in other states.

Rhode Island state lawmakers have already passed civil unions for gay couples.

Following public announcements of support from the governor and top labor union for gay marriage,
Christopher Plante, director of the state’s anti marriage equality organization – The National Organization for Marriage said he wasn’t worried as he thinks most Rhode Islanders remain opposed.

‘I don’t think we’re fighting a losing battle.

‘What you see is the elites and people who are using their positions for their personal opinions, but they don’t represent the voices of Rhode Islanders’.

Many state religious leaders have expressed support of gay marriage.

Reverend Gene Dyszlewski, chair of the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality said: ‘Christ welcomed all to His table and so, as faith leaders for equality, we hope to walk on the path He set for us – living by his example – and affirming His commitment to tolerance and justice’.

Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Providence diocese expressed his opposition to gay marriage dubbing it ‘immoral and unnecessary’.

He said lawmakers should ‘let the people’ decide and put the issue to a referendum.