This afternoon, the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on marriage equality legislation, and the chamber’s Republican Caucus has unanimously endorsed the bill. Though there are only five Republicans in the 38-member Senate, all five signed onto a letter released today declaring that “gay and lesbian couples deserve to be treated equally under the law”:
Our Senate Republican Caucus is deeply committed to the values of freedom, liberty and limited government. In accordance with those values, we believe that freedom means freedom for everyone, and that every citizen of Rhode Island deserves the freedom to marry the person they love.
We support Senate Bill 38 because it rightfully extends the civil aspects of marriage to all Rhode Islanders while protecting the freedom of religion our state was founded upon. Gay and lesbian couples deserve to be treated equally under the law, and at the same time churches, synagogues and mosques in our state must be free to exercise their faith and their sacraments as they see fit. This bill strikes the right balance and should be passed by the Senate.
We recognize that there is a national consensus building on this generational issue, and we are glad that support for the freedom to marry is growing within the Republican Party. Today we join the 209 other Republican state legislators across America who have stood up for the freedom to marry. As a united Senate Republican Caucus, we are proud to add our voices to reaffirm the principles of freedom and equality under the law.
The letter notes, “The Rhode Island Senate GOP Caucus the first legislative caucus of either political party in any state to unanimously support the freedom to marry.”
The endorsement makes the bill’s passage significantly more likely, but opposition remains strong among the Democratic leadership in the Senate, include Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed. A February poll found that 60 percent of Rhode Island voters support allowing same-sex couples to marry, which they can already do in all neighboring states and still be recognized when returning home to Rhode Island.