Just now, the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance marriage equality with a vote of 7-4. The bill is identical to one that already passed the House. A second bill under consideration that would have allowed a referendum to decide whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry failed 5-6. It now advances to the full Senate for consideration. (UPDATE: That full Senate vote will be Wednesday.)
In March, the committee heard about 12 hours of testimony on these two bills. Originally, the referendum bill also included extreme “protections” for religious liberty that anybody in the state could discriminate against same-sex couples. (Numerous senators that originally came out in support of it had already backed away from it.) During the March hearing, there was fierce testimony on both sides of the issue, included repeated lessons on the Bible from Sen. Harold Metts (D), who believes Satan is behind same-sex marriage.
This was the first time that marriage equality has had a vote in the Rhode Island Senate. Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed (D) has not allowed it to advance before, but promised she’d allow a Senate vote this year if the House approved it, which it did. Earlier today, the entire Republican caucus in the Senate — all five members — endorsed marriage equality. Despite the opposition by Senate Democratic leadership, 60 percent of Rhode Island voters support full marriage equality.