Passing marriage solemnization bills in the Rhode Island House of Representatives is a perfunctory action, performed for decades without controversy and done as a small political favor to constituents. State law generally determines who can and who cannot serve as an officiant during a marriage ceremony. If a couple wants to have a friend or relative perform the service for them instead of a religious leader or justice of the peace, they can contact their state representative who introduces a “solemnization of marriage” bill and when the bill passes, the special friend or family member is granted one-time permission to perform a marriage.
So many of these requests are made to the House that the bills are “bundled” for convenience and passed en masse.
These votes are perfunctory and every legislator votes in the affirmative because, let’s face it, you’d have to be an empty, soulless troll to stand in the way of romance and weddings.
Unfortunately, there are many state legislators who routinely engage in such ugly, trollish behavior:
What happened in the video above was that two legislators that serve on the House Judiciary Committee, Arthur Corvese (District 55, North Providence) and Sherry Roberts (District 29, West Greenwich, Coventry), voted against the package of bills, as they and others in the House have done many times before.
They voted against the bills because at least one of the couples in the package of 13 solemnization of marriage bills was gay.
I wrote about this before, here. At that time I noted that, “Consistently voting against same-sex marriages are Representatives Samuel Azzinaro, Arthur Corvese and Robert Phillips. Reps Justin Price, Joseph Trillo, Robert Lancia and Sherry Roberts frequently vote against same-sex solemnization bills.”
Worse still, Azzinaro told me at that time that if a LGBTQ couple approached him and asked him to introduce a solemnization of marriage bill on their behalf, he would deny them.
This system has to change. Allowing bigots the right to judge and potentially deny the marriages of LGBTQ persons serves no one. Every marriage of solemnization bill that is denied the full endorsement of the House is a de facto second class marriage, and it is the intention of the “Nay” voters to make these marriages second class. No government official should be allowed the privilege of issuing official proclamations against the human right of marriage.
These bigoted representatives should of course be free to believe and say whatever they want about LGBTQ marriages. But allowing them to use their offices to pass continual judgement on the lives, loves and marriages of others is wrong, and it has to stop.
It is well past the time to reform our marriage laws and make solemnization of marriage easier and to take the entire process out of the hands of the legislature where, by its very nature, the issue is politicized and thus degraded. LGBTQ couples should not have to enter marriage worrying that if a majority of legislators feel the way Corvese and Roberts do, that their marriage could be altered or denied.