Rhode Island’s House of Representatives is expected to pass a bill today legalizing same-sex marriage, which will then be deliberated by the State Senate. Sen. Frank Ciccone (D), however, has introduced a piece of legislation of his own that would put the issue up to voters.
Unlike HB5015, which passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously on Tuesday, Ciccone’s resolution would suggest a constitutional ban on gay marriage while providing for civil unions.
According to Go Local Prov, S 0096 would ask voters if they wanted to amend the state Constitution to define marriage as “the lawful union of one man and one woman, provided the recognition and definition of marriage shall not prohibit the recognition of a lawful civil union between two (2) members of the same gender.”
Ciccone’s bill has gained support from marriage equality opponents and has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for approval. The resolution would have to pass both the House and the Senate before being taken up by voters. If approved, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a strong proponent of the same-sex marriage bill, would have no veto power over the amendment, though he could veto a voter referendum.
As noted by The New York Times, Rhode Island is the lone holdout among New England states in the gay marriage debate, after Maine joined Maryland and Washington in historically passing legislation by popular vote.
Besides Sen. Ciccone, Rhode Island’s chapter of the National Organization for Marriage has been a particular thorn in the sides of marriage equality supporters.
“We belong to the United States of America, not to the United States of New England,” said Executive Director Christopher Plante. “Rhode Island stands with the vast majority of Americans in understanding that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
The Ocean State may not stand for long after today’s vote in the House. Stay posted for further updates.