For Rhode Island progressives, it’s the most widely-anticipated day of the 2013 legislative session. For anyone who values equal treatment under the law, it’s even bigger than that. Today is the day the Senate Judiciary Committee votes on marriage equality.
The House already passed it overwhelmingly, the governor is a big supporter too and the Senate is highly unlikely to reject it if and when it ever reaches the full chamber. On Smith Hill, issues are won or lost behind closed doors, and those outcomes become evident at the committee level. So today the Ocean State learns if, collectively, we are ready to recognize same sex marriage.
From a practical matter, there are three people who control its fate, and two whom will be casting votes today. Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed is famously opposed to marriage equality, but said she won’t weigh in.
Rookie committee members Lou Raptakis, of Coventry, and Bill Conley, of East Providence, have held their cards close and Rhode Islanders United for Marriage have zeroed in on both of them in this home stretch.
That there are two bills up for a vote today – one backed only by the most socially conservative state legislators, out-of-town hate groups and Catholic priests and another that pretty much everyone else likes – gives them some political cover: vote for them both and let the full Senate flush it out.