Entries from: Rhode Island

Gay lawmakers applauded on Rhode Island marriage victory

rhodeislandmarriageThe Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund today congratulated the four openly gay and lesbian Rhode Island state legislators whose efforts helped secure marriage equality for same-sex couples.

House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, Rep. Frank Ferri, Rep. Deb Ruggiero and Sen. Donna Nesselbush became the face and voice of thousands of LGBT Rhode Islanders in same-sex relationships who have long sought equality under law, speaking out in favor of legislation that received final approval today in the state Senate.  The House, which already gave overwhelming approval to another version of the bill, is expected to approve the Senate-passed legislation next week, and Gov. Lincoln Chafee has vowed to sign it into law.

“We are grateful to Rhode Island’s gay and lesbian legislators for standing up for themselves, for their partners, for their families and for every young person across the state who dreams of one day marrying the person they love,” said Victory Fund president and CEO Chuck Wolfe.  “They spoke passionately and authentically about the personal impact of this struggle, and that has made a tremendous difference.  Today is a day to celebrate their hard work, and that of their colleagues and all the groups in the Rhode Islanders United for Marriage coalition who made this day possible.”

Openly LGBT lawmakers, working alongside local, state and national LGBT organizations, have also seen success in recent legislative pushes for marriage equality in New York, Maryland and Washington state.  Currently, 109 openly gay, lesbian and bisexual state legislators are serving in 37 U.S. states.

“We’re working to make sure every single state legislature in America has the benefit of at least one openly LGBT lawmaker who can speak for our community,” said Wolfe, “but when we can build up a caucus of four, five, six or more, it makes it far more likely that state legislatures will begin to see LGBT Americans as worthy of the right to pursue happiness.”

Go here to sign Victory Fund’s online card thanking the four out members of the Rhode Island legislature.

All eyes on R.I. Senate after House easily passes marriage bill

MARRIAGE-articleLarge-v2A historic and lopsided vote in favor of marriage equality in the Rhode Island House last night has put pressure on the state Senate to follow suit, but the bill’s prospects there are unclear because Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, a Democrat, opposes the measure.

Governor Lincoln Chafee, who has enthusiastically supported marriage equality in the state, released a statement following the vote: “Now that the House has swiftly acted, I urge Senate leadership to ‘call the roll’ – for our economy, for our gay and lesbian friends and neighbors, and for history.”

The 51-19 House vote was an important victory for marriage equality advocates, including House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is openly gay and has worked for years to pass this legislation. “This has been a long journey. Today is a great day. Today…we stand for equality, we stand for justice,” Fox said.

Rhode Islanders from across the state attended the hearing, including 70-year-old Ken Fish, who is gay. “I wanted to be here to see it. Go back 10 years, even five years, and I wasn’t sure we’d ever get here. We’re not done yet, but this is a big one,” Fish told the Associated Press.

Lawmakers on both sides of the issue spoke passionately during the House debate last night. Rep. John Edwards (D-Tiverton) challenged his colleagues: “Your grandchildren someday will ask you… ‘How did you vote on marriage equality?’ Hopefully you’ll be able to say the right thing.”

Photo: Steven Senne/Associated Press

Va., Colo., and R.I. face important votes this week

RIassembly_PhotoCreditRIUnitedOut lawmakers in Virginia, Colorado and Rhode Island are busy this week working to pass legislation that would advance the LGBT community’s access to equal rights.

In Virginia, openly gay State Sen. Adam Ebbin and ally Sen. Donald McEachin succeeded last night in passing an employment non-discrimination bill through a key committee. SB701, the bill that would prohibit discrimination based on a public employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity, passed through the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee with an 8-7 vote, MetroWeekly reports. The bill will now move on to the 40-member Senate for a vote.

In Colorado, out State Sen. Pat Steadman continues to lead the effort to pass a civil unions bill, which the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear Wednesday afternoon. The bill is expected to easily pass, finally ending the years-long battle to win civil unions in the state.  Steadman told The Denver Post that this hearing should be far briefer and less dramatic than last year’s four-hour event: “How much more is there really to say about this? We’ve heard it before. People understand this. This is family law.”

And the breaking news in Rhode Island today is that the House Judiciary Committee unanimously endorsed HB5015, the bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the state. On January 24, the bill will face the full House of Representatives, where openly gay Speaker Gordon D. Fox is in charge. State Sen. Donna Nesselbush, who is openly lesbian, is leading the Senate effort to win marriage equality along with bill co-sponsor State Sen. Arthur Handy, who is an ally.

Photo: Rhode Islanders United for Marriage

Out Congressman reelected in Rhode Island

cicilline221Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., has won a second term in the U.S. House representing Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District.  He faced a tough challenge from GOP nominee Sean Doherty in his first reelection bid.

“We’re thrilled that David will return to Capitol Hill, where his voice will be vital in a growing caucus of openly LGBT lawmakers,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.

Cicilline is one of four openly gay and lesbian members of the House currently.

Cicilline wins Democratic primary, vies for second term

Cicilline winRep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., one of just four openly gay members of Congress, won his Democratic primary tonight against Anthony Gemma, an opponent he also defeated in 2010 when he was first elected to the House.  He will face Brendan Doherty this November, a Republican who opposes allowing gay couples to legally marry.

“We’re pleased that Rhode Island Democrats have once again chosen David Cicilline to represent them in Congress.  Now voters will face a clear choice this November between a persistent champion for LGBT equality, and an opponent who supports the Defense of Marriage Act, which makes life harder for so many American families,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

This is Cicilline’s first bid for reelection after a challenging freshman term in which he apologized to voters for painting a too-rosy picture of the financial condition of the city of Providence, where he served two terms as mayor.  New ads in the campaign feature former Congressman Patrick Kennedy vouching for Cicilline’s dedication to working families across the state.