Cranston's Rep. Handy Sponsors Gay Marriage Bill, Passage Likely

Cranston State Rep. Arthur Handy has submitted the bill every year for more than a decade. This year could be the year it finally gets to a floor vote.

For 10 years, Cranston Rep. Arthur Handy has introduced the same bill every legislative session that would allow same-sex couple to marry.

This year, his bill might actually get passed as House Speaker Gordon Fox has pledged to put a vote to the floor by the end of the month.

The legislation has broad support, with 42 members of the House signing on as sponsors and 11 members of the Senate.

“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. 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. We know this can pass the House this year, and we know that Governor Chafee will sign it if we get it to him. This bill is about ending discrimination and creating true equality for all Rhode Islanders, promotes family stability and it affords plentiful protection for religious freedom. For the sake of all of those families who hang in the balance, we need marriage equality now,” said Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), the lead sponsor in the House who has introduced the bill annually for over a decade.

Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush, a second-term senator who is openly gay, is taking the lead in the Senate this year after the retirement of the perennial Senate sponsor, former senator Rhoda E. Perry. Senator Nesselbush says the issue is “intensely personal” for her as well as thousands of other Rhode Islanders, and a matter of being on the “right side of history.”

“After many years, I have finally found the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with, the woman I want to marry. We are both spiritual and want to deepen and strengthen our devotion. We are deeply in love, and are hoping and praying for marriage equality so we can tie the knot. But this is not about me or us. This is about the thousands of loving gay and lesbian couples who want and deserve the right to marry,” said Senator Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket.) “I take my work and my civic responsibilities very seriously, and it’s ironic that I am qualified to be the chief judge of the City of Pawtucket and a state senator but somehow not qualified to marry.  If my conservative father were alive, even he would say ‘That’s just plain wrong and there ought to be a law.’ I implore my colleagues to join me in casting a vote on the right side of history…. The train has left the station. Marriage equality is inevitable. Young people cannot even understand why this is an issue. A crescendo is building, and most Rhode Islanders want us to enact marriage equality.”

Speaker Fox, who is also gay, is the first cosponsor listed on the House bill. He has indicated he is interested in bringing it before the full House for a vote early in the session. A vote is expected in the Senate Judiciary Committee if the vote passes the House. The legislation, which will be assigned to each chamber’s respective Judiciary Committee, has never previously come out of committee for a vote on the floor of either chamber. 

“Senate President [M. Teresa] Paiva Weed has honorably promised that there will be a vote on the issue, and with nine states, the District of Columbia and the president of the United States all embracing marriage equality, we have never been closer,” said Senator Nesselbush. “Let this be the year Rhode Island joins the burgeoning force for equality that is sweeping our nation.”

The legislation removes gender-specific language from the section of the general laws that governs eligibility for marriage. It inserts language that allows any person to marry any other eligible person, regardless of gender.

Additionally, it includes language stating that marriage is recognized by the state to promote stable relationships and provide important legal protections to couples and their immediate and extended families.

The bill reiterates constitutionally guaranteed freedom for religious institutions to set their own guidelines for marriage eligibility within their faith, and stipulation that under no circumstances will clergy or others authorized to perform marriages be obligated by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage.

“Regarding religious freedom, no religious organziation should or will be required to perform a wedding that is contrary to their faith. At the same time, no faith that does support marriages between people of the same gender should be barred from performing them either. Our current law is actually violating their religious freedom,” said Represenative Handy.

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.

In September, a WPRI poll of 501 likely voters in Rhode Island found that 56 percent of Rhode Islanders support same-gender marriage, and only 36 percent oppose it.

The sponsors of the bill in the House include:

  • Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston)
  • House Speaker Gordon D. Fox (D-Dist. 4, Providence)
  • Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence)
  • Rep. Elaine A. Coderre (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket)
  • House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston)
  • Rep. Edith H. Ajello (D-Dist. 1, Providence)
  • Rep. Frank G. Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick)
  • Rep. J. Patrick O’Neill (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket)
  • Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown)
  • Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence)
  • Rep. Larry Valencia (D-Dist. 39, Richmond, Exeter, Hopkinton)
  • Rep. Thomas Palangio (D-Dist. 3, Providence)
  • Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett)
  • Rep. Eileen S. Naughton (Dist. 21, Warwick)
  • Rep. David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston)
  • Rep. Karen MacBeth (D-Dist. 52, Cumberland)
  • Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth)
  • Rep. William O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence)
  • Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown)
  • Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence)
  • Rep. Lisa P. Tomasso (D-Dist. 29, Coventry, West Greenwich)
  • Rep. Agostinho F. Silva (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls)
  • Rep. Donna M. Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly)
  • Rep. Katherine Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence)
  • Rep. Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln)
  • Rep. Linda Finn (D-Dist. 72, Middletown, Portsmouth)
  • Rep. Cale P. Keable (D-Dist. 47, Burrillville, Glocester)
  • Rep. Gregg M. Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence)
  • Rep. Scott A. Slater (D-Dist. 10, Providence)
  • Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Little Compton, Portsmouth, Tiverton)
  • Rep. Peter F. Martin (D-Dist. 75, Newport)
  • Rep. Scott J. Guthrie (D-Dist. 28, Coventry)
  • Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence)
  • Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket)
  • Rep. Maria E. Cimini (D-Dist. 7, Providence)
  • Rep. Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren)
  • Rep. Robert E. Craven Sr. (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown)
  • Rep. Donald J. Lally Jr. (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett)
  • Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence)
  • Rep. Mary Duffy Messier (D-Dist. 62, Pawtucket)
  • Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick)
  • Rep. William San Bento Jr. (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket).
  • The sponsors of the bill in the Senate include:
  • Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket)
  • Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham)
  • Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence)
  • Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence)
  • Sen. Christopher Scott Ottiano (R-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol)
  • Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick)
  • Sen. Gayle Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence)
  • Sen. Catherine Cool Rumsey (D-Dist. 34, Exeter, Charlestown, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich)
  • Sen. Adam J. Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick)
  • Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln)
  • Sen. Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, Johnston, North Providence).
Chris12 January 04, 2013 at 01:01 AM
Gay Marriage at the top of the GA priority list... We get the government we vote for
Joe The Plumber January 04, 2013 at 01:35 AM
You actually could not make this stuff up. If you were to write a book about it you would have to call it fiction because noone outside of Rhode Island would ever believe it was a true story. The entire State and many of its businesses are on the verge of bankruptcy and these idiots place gay marriage at the top of their priority list?!???!! We are done......finished.....no hope.....
Tom at Oak Lawn January 04, 2013 at 05:05 PM
During the Campaign, Nicholas Mattiello and I spoke on my doorstep about same-sex marriage, and while he claimed to be a Catholic, and our discussion was polite, he has a child's understanding of the Bible and God's Word, which is a shame because Cranston has entrusted him to a position that demands a Man's understanding & wisdom. I will pray for you Nick, that God grants you more wisdom, and understanding.
Tom at Oak Lawn January 04, 2013 at 05:11 PM
If the legislation removes gender-specific language from the section of the general laws that governs eligibility for marriage...and it inserts language that allows any person to marry any other eligible person, regardless of gender....then what about polygamy? Will we be able to have more than one spouse? Hmmmmm.......
Tom at Oak Lawn January 04, 2013 at 05:13 PM
Well...here's how it all worked out in Massachusetts....follow the link: http://www.massresistance.org/docs/marriage/effects_of_ssm_2012/index.html#public
Foxeyroxie15 January 04, 2013 at 10:07 PM
Fox said several months ago this would be his top priority & darned if it isn't!! The State is under water & it affects everyone - I don't care if you're straight, gay or purple.If you don't have a job, own property, buy/use goods, services in RI, you are hurting. So again, for the minority who are gay but have the same other issues as the rest of the citizenry, this is his 'priority'. Ms. Nesslebush - it's "intensely personal". You were elected to represent ALL of your constituents - should have kept your mouth shut. Your personal issues are moot. Gay marriage is against my beliefs but I say go for it - let's get this done. It's taking up time that could be spent on better things. The G.A. should be addressing & fixing everything that is wrong in RI (which is nearly everything) & make an attempt to get us back on our feet. That's OUR agenda, what the pols were elected to represent. Fix this mess that you, our bench-warming GA, got us into!! Pass this silly law & let's get back to the real business and issues facing every single RIer !!! We're bleeding, we need more than a band-aid. At least, make it look like you're trying...
Patrick Luce (Editor) January 04, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Bob, I deleted your comment because it violates our terms of service. We welcome yours and everyone's input in this debate, but please be sure to keep the conversation civil and refrain from name-calling and profanity.
Cranston Resident January 04, 2013 at 11:35 PM
So basically you are telling our legislators: " Hey! Hurry up and do what I believe is wrong so that you can do what is right afterward" Ummmm.... it is precisely this kind of weird logic that is unique to the Rhode Island electorate. It is this permissive attitude toward our legislators who do the wrong thing and then get elected by overwhelming majorities every time they run for office. It's like..."I know you are doing the wrong thing....I know you are screwing me....but I can't help myself.... my backwards brain makes me vote for all of you again and again. So, please hurry and do the wrong thing and then maybe you can do a right thing or two? Please? Pretty please??" This state is done.... finished.... bankrupted financially and morally...
Bob January 05, 2013 at 02:17 AM
I really don't give a shit to be quite honest......Handy's a loser...face the fact.....
Govstench January 05, 2013 at 02:42 AM
I doubt it will get passed the Senate.
Foxeyroxie15 January 05, 2013 at 03:10 AM
Cranston Res. - Not permissive!! Just sick & tired of re-hashing Fox's agenda every time the GA is in session. He's wasting time that should be used for better purposes. This issue has been around 11 (?) yrs. If we let this get passed, maybe he'll actually get something done (doubtful but worth a shot!). Yes, we are getting screwed by letting him make this the top of the list every time! Be done with it & get on with business!! FYI - I don't/didn't vote for 'all of them' again. I voted for 1 again - why? Despite the D after his name, we think alike. We see too much wrong, that the people aren't being served. His problem? Fox...he's tangled with him before, incurred his wrath. Fox is vindictive & my guy refuses to 'go along to get along'. The 9 people who didn't vote Fox in will pay, count on it. Personally, Fox & his partner can take a 10 minute ride & get 'married' in Mass. So - it's going to pass. Get used to it. I don't like it anymore than you but it's time to move on & get this State fixed. Want to help solve what seems like a small problem? Go to www.masterlever.org and sign the petition so voters will stop pulling the master lever - let's see if we can get a little variety into Smith Hill. Consider it one small step for RI and put your money where your mouth is. I signed it ! Time voters had to THINK when they go into the voting booth instead of marking that big D. Sign it instead of griping.
Rep. Dan Gordon January 05, 2013 at 08:11 AM
You are VERY welcome! It was an honor to serve! http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/constitution/item/11711-rhode-island-house-defends-constitution-passes-anti-ndaa-resolution Rep Dan Gordon
Foxeyroxie15 January 06, 2013 at 12:27 AM
Rep. Gordon - nice to see someone not following the crowd! Now let's do something about making English the Official Language in RI. The Feds won't do it but under states' rights, I believe 31 states have already done so. Those who argue against it point out it violates civil rights, free speech - PA would have all official papers in English which stymies efforts to make English ours. I found this article against it - “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech,” the First Amendment reads. By printing government documents only in English, as the Pennsylvania legislation proposes, the government is violating the very Constitution it aims to protect and uphold. Let’s face it, English is in no way threatened by other languages. The vast majority of people in America speak English, and immigrants try to learn English (and encourage their children to) as they assimilate into the American culture and way of life." I disagree with this. It was true when my great grandparents came here. They learned English though they dropped out of school to support families, they assimilated into the community. There were no handouts, no ESL. They may have spoken French at home, but spoke & read English when out. English is a universal language now. Other countries use it as a 2nd language & more proficiently than we do!
Foxeyroxie15 January 06, 2013 at 12:47 AM
(continued) We are a melting pot without an official language. We have a flag, a constitutional gov't, an official bird, money but no language. Each state has official symbols yet 31 have made English official. Again, RI is in the minority as it is in everything else. For once, can RI get on-board? I don't see today's immigrants trying to assimilate! We provide ESL & not just in schools. I worked at a job where the company provided ESL on their time in the workplace which I thought was really great. The day they received their certificates, they came out out the conference room, waving the paper and yelling in Spanish!! What was the point? The company provided them all the tools, paid them on co. time & they didn't attempt to assimilate. It's fine to keep our traditions - in our family, our homes. We should know where we come from, our roots. First & foremost, though, we are Americans, benefit from all things American, proud to be American yet have NO official language. No, I don't see a day when RI will step up to the plate, sadly. It fails at every turn. I have the RI accent, been asked if I'm from NY. I always say Yes because I'm embarassed to admit I live here. Will RI ever get anything right?
Tom at Oak Lawn January 06, 2013 at 02:26 AM
Foxeyroxie -- RI has it right, already, with no same-sex marriage. In that way we're leading the way by not abandoning what's right and decent and true. We're smarter than some others, in not making change for the worse. Check out article: http://www.massresistance.org/docs/marriage/effects_of_ssm_2012/index.html#public
Cranston Res January 07, 2013 at 09:04 AM
Tom, Regarding the link you posted...How can you view any of these points as being valid? It's just horrible for Massachusetts' families that same-sex couples are recognized for insurance purposes. And "anecdotal evidence" being accepted as truth? Luckily, not all in Cranston are as delusional as those who would believe this propaganda.
Foxeyroxie15 January 07, 2013 at 04:21 PM
Sorry that I went off-topic but when I get a politician's 'ear', hoping that he will come back to his post, I tend to bring up things that burn me up. As to the 'gay marriage' issue in R.I. - I'll address the Lesbian/Gay community. Yes, Fox wants this passed as he is gay, wants to be married to his partner. BUT - please go back a week or two. Chafee is supporting this bill because "gay marriage would be good for our economy". Yes, that is what he said !!! Can't recall if it was on Projo or TV but those are his words - good for our economy. So, if you truly think for a moment that he really cares and advocates for you to be "married", that it is the "right" thing to do, you're dead wrong!!!! He doesn't know much, hasn't done anything but he knows a good money deal when he sees one. There isn't a thing he hasn't taxed, put a fee or surcharge on so he's run out of options. RI is broke so your 'marriage' is going to license fees, the ceremony, some type of reception/party, new clothing (which he'll probably start taxing) and who knows what else!! He's scraping the bottom of the barrel for cash (no offense meant) and is looking to cash in wherever he can now. I've said it since he came into office - I'm fully waiting for him to come into my home and put 2 pay toilets in ! And again, there a few on Smith Hill that dare cross Fox on anything!!
Tom at Oak Lawn January 07, 2013 at 04:40 PM
Truth is, there's nothing gay about homosexual marriage -- "The push for "gay marriage" is really is about putting the legal stamp of approval on homosexuality and forcing its acceptance on (otherwise unwilling) citizens and our social, political, and commercial institutions."....and that's nothing to feel gay about.
Cranston Res January 07, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Hi Foxey, I wasn't responding to your concern directed towards Rep. Gordon. I do agree with his viewpoint on NDAA. First of all, I do not identify as LGBT, but I surely have no problem being associated with the group as an ally. I agree with your feelings about Chafee, he doesn't know anything. In my opinion, the future for Rhode Island's economy isn't with manufacturing or jewelry. These jobs are not coming back to the state. Our biggest hope is with tourism. This would bring revenue to the cities and bring down property taxes, which I know Cranston residents have been praying for for many years. How does this apply? Gay marriage does benefit the economy. In just one quarter, gay marriage added $259 million to NYC's economy. Also, a study suggests that Maine, Maryland and Washington will collect $166 million over three years from gay marriage. I haven't seen such a study on RI, but while it obviously will not generate the revenue of NYC, it will help the economy. Especially with wedding locations like Newport, Narragansett, etc. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/12/gay-marriage-and-the-economy_n_2118622.html http://money.cnn.com/2012/07/24/pf/gay-marriage-economic-impact/index.htm
Joe The Plumber January 07, 2013 at 06:08 PM
This mentality is precisely why 24,000 people left this miserable state.
Robert E January 25, 2013 at 08:52 PM
What i can't figure out is when the high priests and pharisees had the romans put Christ to death for his homosexual lifstyle his followers could be so homophobic. If you truly read the new testament it is so clear that Jesus was gay. Is that what scares you so much.
Justin Jay April 23, 2013 at 05:08 PM
I'm sorry, but this should have been a discussion taken up many years ago, when things were good. Unfortunately, the economy in RI is bad NOW and though there are measures and ideas being taken to deal with these issues, a topic that has been a topic for years is finally getting addressed. It should! Quote the bible! Quote the past! You can even say you don't like the idea of 2 men kissing one another! Hell, it doesn't make me feel good when I see it. However, I do believe that homosexuality has been around a lot longer than the people who are currently making decisions to run this government. It's a global thing. It doesn't mean people are going to start wanting to marry animals (an absurd argument. People that brought it up should be ashamed of such uneducated thinking.) To further the point, the government has always made a case about keeping certain religions from affecting government too much. It was a big worry among people for Catholic Democrat John F. Kennedy and the pope's influence continues to be a worry for most non-catholic people today. I am of no religion, so honestly, I could care less other than it's disappointing and sad that 2 human beings cannot be together. I was married to a woman. I'm divorced. It's no different than marriage people. The idea of 2 people of the same gender having sex might give you the "heebie-geebies" but hey! You're not the one who's living that way of living. So WHY are you determining something of which you're not apart?
Justin Jay April 23, 2013 at 05:37 PM
You know what the best part to all of this is. I can put my full name out there to discuss this issue, yet I see the names of Joe The Plumber. Really? The guy from the 2008 election? Nothing more clever than that? If you're going to be an opposition of gay marriage, be real. Don't be a fictitious character hiding behind names so you can throw your opinion around like it should matter. I don't like a lot of the things RI has done to try fix this crap, weak economy... but Gay Marriage matters. It IS important, especially to those that are unemployed... and gay. I hope you're smart enough to figure out why.


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