Rhode Island now remains the only state in New England that forbids same-sex marriage — but that soon could change if the General Assembly votes to approve new legislation.
On Jan. 3, legislation to allow same-gender couples to marry in Rhode Island was introduced in both the Rhode Island House and Senate, with a pledge from House Speaker Gordon Fox for a floor vote early in the session. Fox, the first co-sponsor of the House bill, is openly gay.
The legislation has broad support, with 42 members of the House signing on as sponsors and 11 members of the Senate.
Among the Bristol and Warren delegations to the Assembly, Rep. Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren) and Sen. Christopher Scott Ottiano (R-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol) added their names as sponsors of the bills in their respective chambers.
Ottiano, in fact, was the only Republican in the Assembly to co-sponsor the legislation.
Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), the lead sponsor in the House who has introduced the bill annually for over a decade, explained in a press release that he hoped this would be the year that marriage equality becomes law.
“We are long overdue. Rhode Island, the colony founded on the principle of personal liberty, is now the only New England state that doesn’t allow same-gender couples equal marriage," said Handy. "Rhode Islanders recognize that same-gender couples deserve the rights and responsibilities that other couples already enjoy, and support has been getting wider every year."
The legislation is not only gaining support from proponents of civil rights, but also those in the wedding business.
"Having it legalized, I think it will bring in more business and there's new publications you can advertise in. I'm sure it will help increase business," said Katie Wilkinson, event manager for the Glen Manor House, a location which hosts weddings throughout the year in nearby Portsmouth.
"It's definitely an increase of business we could see. We have done several commitment services before."
Rhode Island passed a law in 2011 allowing civil unions for same-gender couples as a compromise measure, but relatively few have taken advantage of it, and many have criticized civil unions as a less-than-equal offering to same-gender couples.
What do you think?
Is it time for Rhode Island to allow same-sex couples to marry? Will it result in a economic boost for small business?
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