Thursday, January 26, 2006

You Need R.I. for Grief

In the nothing-is-simple category, consider Rhode Island. Through laws, amendments or both, the vast majority of U.S. states clucked and squealed like Nellies getting their no-same-sex-marriage rules in place. In contrast, Rhode Island appears to be slowly, judiciously listing toward equality and freedom...but not yet, please.

Instead of an up-or-down vote in the Rhody legislature, sponsors of same-sex-marriage bills have been dancing, cajoling and otherwise waiting for the right moment. In what is often contentious, even in New England, the SSM battle there is more a pillow fight than a sword duel.

There are SSM proponents and DoMA sponsors in both houses of the General Assembly. Someone has filed SSM bills for nine previous years, repeating the process Tuesday. Yet, that is not that.

Instead, last year, pro-SSM forces in and out of the legislature felt the time was not right. So, they let the bills die in committee in House and Senate. This time, who knows? The Providence Journal's state house bureau predicts hard going (link requires free registration).

Last year, 21 of 75 House members co-sponsored the bill. This year, it's 23 and would have been 24, but for one member on extended sick leave. That's a hefty team, but the anti side has heavy-hitting Republican, including the governor, Senate president, and House speaker.

House chief sponsor, Rep. Arthur Handy, Democrat from Cranston, said, "I hope we get passage this year, but I'm realistic."

The state is nudging toward what the sponsor Sen. Rhoda Perry, Democrat from Providence, calls "a matter of simple fairness."

Apparently, as DoMA forces dwindle to a bitter few, the pro folk intend to keep at it until they win. It looks like they may have to have enough votes to override a reactionary governor's veto. They seem determined to do what they have to until they get it.

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