Rhode Island Civil Union Bill to Be Introduced Tuesday

Earlier this week I reported that lawmakers had given up on trying to pass a marriage equality bill for the session in Rhode Island and had shifted their focus to civil unions. That legislation will reportedly be introduced on Tuesday:

Ri A House spokesman said Thursday that lawmakers are reviewing civil union laws in other states to help them craft the proposal, which could be introduced Tuesday.

Groups that fought for gay marriage say they'll oppose any proposal that falls short of full marriage. Gay marriage opponents also oppose civil unions.

Rep. Frank Ferri, a Warwick Democrat who is gay, tells The Associated Press that he wants to see the bill's details before making up his mind.

Disagreement remains among lawmakers about whether or not marriage equality actually could have passed the House. While openly gay House Speaker Gordon Fox (pictured) caved, other members of his leadership team feel the bill could have passed, the Providence Journal reports:

Fox House Majority Whip J. Patrick O’Neill, D-Pawtucket, believed the votes were there to pass Rep. Arthur Handy’s gay-marriage bill, albeit by a slim margin. “It would have been an unbelievable floor battle, but we had the numbers to get it out of the House,” he said.

State Rep. Peter J. Petrarca, a Lincoln Democrat who serves as Fox’s senior deputy majority leader, concurred. “It would have been a close vote, but I think it would have passed,” he said.

Rep. Frank G. Ferri, a Warwick Democrat and deputy majority leader, said he believed that there were about “40 to 42” votes in the House in support of gay marriage, a count that he says comes from Marriage Equality Rhode Island, one of the local advocacy groups leading the drive for same-sex marriage.

All of those lawmakers, however, did not feel the bill would make it through the state Senate.


  1. TampaZeke says

    I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if, by the time NOM gets done with them, they have trouble passing even Civil Unions in the overwhelmingly DEMOCRATIC Rhode Island House. We are seeing just how spineless Democrats can be when they have the numbers to easily pass laws granting basic civil rights to gay couples.

  2. Seb says

    This is an especially appalling result, since RI is a non-referendum state, so legislative success would add RI safely and essentially permanently to the equality column. The fool who ran the RI effort recently resigned w/ an idiotic self-serving statement that she was confident that marriage would pass and that it was the right time to move on to other things. God help the next cause that she joins.

    The incompetent RI activists who blew this after 2 years of boasting that it was a done deal should now minimize the damage and demand that a vote be held on marriage regardless of the outcome. As NY showed, you need to get these deceitful Democratic weasels on record. Then you know whom to target in the next primary. If they won’t vote, then let it be known that any Dem who is not unambiguously on record in writing is deemed a potential primary target.

    Take civil unions for now if that is all we can get. Then go after the weasels who betrayed you. Then try again for full equality in a few years.

  3. Ken says

    There should be more anger over what is happening in Rhode Island. We were promised full marriage equality and told all we need was a Governor who would support it. The Democrats have lied to us and there needs to be political consequences for them. The legistature is more than 3 to 1 Democratic, the public supports marriage equality by about 60% in polls, the new Governor is a strong supporter, the Speaker of the House is gay! Somebody explain to me how we’ve allowed NOM to win this one!

  4. says

    I don’t know who SEB is but I can tell you that I know Kathy Kushnir. MERI had a a SOLID majority in the House of Representatives for this bill in 2010 and 2011.

    But RI Coward Fox decided it was “too controversial”.

    Here’s my take – I thin the state Dem Party saw MERI getting to the point of being a serious political force. So they planted Ray Sullivan in there.

    I’ve met Sullivan – my assessment – overgrown juvenile delinquent who doesn’t know his ass from his elbow about politics.

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