Today Representative Art Handy (Democrat-District 18-Cranston) introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island. The move comes just days after newly-inaugurated Governor Lincoln Chafee showed his support of marriage equality after taking the Oath of Office in a speech wherein he differentiated his administration strongly from that of outgoing Donald Carcieri, a long-time opponent of such measures.
Handy, who is Chairperson of the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and also serves on the House Committee on Constituent Services and House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare, is also active in reforming the transit system here in Rhode Island and works professionally in the field of sustainable living.
The bill’s future will be fraught with challenge. Rhode Island is the most populous Roman Catholic state in the Union, and Bishop Thomas Tobin has been a strong proponent of ‘one man, one woman’ as the only form of publicly acceptable matrimony, and may indeed frame the issue for legislators as a question of morality, perhaps going so far as to challenge the eligibility for reception of Holy Communion should a Catholic vote ‘yea’ in favor of gay marriage. However, Speaker of the House Gordon Fox is both openly gay and a Catholic, as are many liberal Representatives. Furthermore, argument could be made that the bill further protects religious liberty for minority faiths that do have solemnized gay unions, such as local Unitarian and Old Catholic Churches in Rhode Island.