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Ultimate fate of Rhode Island gay marriage bill uncertain

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 25th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Rhode Island lawmakers have passed a bill to allow gay marriage. While many New England states currently recognize same sex unions, observers on both sides of the issue say the fate of the legislation remains uncertain. While the bill passed the House 51-19, it faces a much more difficult battle in the state Senate.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The House vote in Rhode Island "undermines the common good of our state and strikes against the very foundation of our culture," a statement from the Rhode Island Catholic Conference read. "Unfortunately, this bill redefines marriage and fails to protect the religious liberties of many faith communities and individuals of conscience who believe that marriage is a union of one man and one woman."

The Rev. Bernard A. Healey, executive director of the conference said that legislative leaders should focus on initiatives to reduce the state's high unemployment, poverty and other economic challenges.

Another church group formed specifically to oppose gay marriage called the Faith Alliance to Preserve the Sanctity of Marriage as Established by God, say they have already focused its efforts on the Senate.

"We have hope that in the Senate, we can stop the bill," the Rev. Santos Escobar said, who was among the dozen or so protesters that lined the entryway to the House chamber prior to the vote.

The group held signs including one that read: "Same sex marriage is immoral and unnecessary."
 
One ardent supporter, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee tweeted: "Certain votes can be characterized as 'historic.' RI House's overwhelming passage of marriage equality is one such vote."

"There is incredible momentum behind this movement," Ray Sullivan, the campaign manager for Rhode Islanders United for Marriage said. The group is a coalition of groups that had pushed for passage. There was "first a unanimous Judiciary Committee vote, and now two-thirds of members, Republicans and Democrats, stood in support of marriage equality."

The vote came after nearly two hours of discussion among state representatives. The measure now goes to the state Senate, which must hear its version of the bill by April 11, where discussions and decisions are expected to be more definitive.

"We're not taking anything for granted," Sullivan said. "Tonight we will celebrate and tomorrow we will double and triple our efforts."

Sullivan said his group will continue to emphasize the human side of the issue, bringing the testimony of same-sex couples who have been together for many years to legislators, an approach he believes was the key to persuading undecided members of the House.

Same sex couples have the legal right to marry in nine states in addition to Washington, D.C. They include Rhode Island's neighbors in the northeast - Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Vermont, Maine, New York and New Hampshire - as well as Iowa and Washington state.

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