Marriage equality update

Rhode Island likely to be 10th marriage equality state. Progress in Delaware, Minnesota. File graphic.

Rhode Island: gay marriage bill headed to final vote

DAVID KLEPPER, Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island appears poised to become the nation's 10th state to allow gayand lesbiancouples to marry after a legislative panel voted Tuesday to forward same-sex marriage legislation to the full House for a final — and largely procedural — vote.

The outcome of Thursday's House vote is not in doubt, as the House overwhelmingly passed an earlier version of the bill in January. The Senate passed the bill by a comfortable margin last week, but it had to return to the House because of small changes made in the Senate.

"We're one step closer," said Sen. Donna Nesselbush, D-Pawtucket and the bill's sponsor in the Senate. "Every step is important and every step is exciting."

Gov. Lincoln Chafee is expected to sign the bill into law quickly after it passes the House.

Nine states and the District of Columbia now allow gayand lesbiancouples to marry. Heavily Catholic Rhode Island is currently the only New England state that doesn't allow gaymarriage, although bills legalizing it have been introduced every year since 1997.

There was little testimony at Tuesday's brief hearing on the legislation— a big departure from the hours-long hearings earlier this year and in previous years that attracted hundreds of people on both sides of the debate. With the bill all but passed, most opponents stayed away.

Testimony focused on the changes made to the bill by the Senate. The bill that passed the House stated that religious institutions may set their own rules regarding who is eligible to marry within the faith and specifies that no religious leader is obligated to officiate at any marriage ceremony. The Senate added language to ensure that groups like the Knights of Columbus aren't legally obligated to provide facilities for same-sex weddings.

Supporters said they could live with the changes.

"I ask you now for what I hope will be the final time: please pass these bills," said Kate Montiero, a member of Rhode Islanders United for Marriage and a longtime leader of the state's gayand lesbianrights movement. "Please finally bring marriage equality to Rhode Island. It is in the end what it has always been, just plain fair."

Only three people spoke out against the bill at the hearing, saying gaymarriage should be illegal and would lead to a moral decline in the state.

The first gaymarriages in Rhode Island could take place Aug. 1, when the legislation would take effect. Civil unions would no longer be available to same-sex couples as of that date, though the state would continue to recognize existing civil unions. Lawmakers approved civil unions two years ago, though few couples have sought them.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press


Delaware: Senate panel considers gay marriage bill

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A state Senate committee is taking up a bill authorizing same-sex marriage in Delaware.

The measure narrowly won passage in the House last week. Supporters and opponents expect another close vote if the Senate Executive Committee votes Wednesday to send it to the full Senate for consideration.

Gov. Jack Markell supports the measure, which was introduced barely a year after the state began recognizing same-sex civil unions. It would make Delaware the 10th state to authorize same-sex marriage.

Under the proposal, no new civil unions would be performed after July 1, and existing civil unions would be converted to marriages.

Supporters say couples in same-sex relationships deserve the same dignity and respect afforded to married couples.

Opponents argue that same-sex marriage redefines and destroys that institution.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.



Minnesota: Group supporting gay marriage buying new TV ads

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The political group pushing to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota is airing a new statewide television ad urging supporters to contact their legislators.

Minnesotans United said the ad would start airing on Wednesday. It features former state Rep. John Kriesel, a Republican supporter of gay marriage, and is similar to an ad also featuring Kriesel that the group ran in the days before the defeat of last fall's gay marriage ban.

The state House could vote soon vote on the bill to change Minnesota's legal definition of marriage to include all couples regardless of gender. The bill's next stop after that would be the state Senate, then Gov. Mark Dayton, who says he'd sign it.

Minnesotans United said its ad buy is six figures.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press