Why Is Rhode Island’s Gay House Speaker Gordon Fox Refusing To Bring Marriage To A Vote?

Rhode Island State Rep. Gordon Fox, the openly gay speaker, says it’s “premature” to bring the state’s gay marriage bill to a vote next week. Did we mention Fox is one of the co-sponsors of the bill? After Thursday’s eight-hour hearings on the matter, which saw 137 speak in favor of gays and 60 against, House Judiciary Chairwoman Edith Ajello says she wants to immediate move on the bill. Fox wants to wait, because like after eating an enormous multi-course meal, he needs time to digest.

“I think [voting on the bill] next week is premature,” says Fox. “Edie wants to move quickly. She’s a new chair … and she wants to push things so they can get through their agenda. But we, in leadership, myself and the majority leader, really need to talk to a few people. We actually have to have some conversations with the Senate, with the governor’s office, and that is going to take some time.”

Translation: Typical political deal making has to take place first, where Fox can ensure his gay marriage bill has enough votes to pass while agreeing to trade some favors on some other initiatives. And if you don’t give him enough time to do this, well, he’s bad at his job! He wants to make sure there are the votes in the Senate to pass this thing if his House colleagues are going to put themselves out there for the gays. (NB: Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed opposes gay marriage, and Senate leadership might refuse to let the bill even come to a vote.)

So while Ajello is certain she can move the bill through the judiciary committee with at least eight votes, Fox insists, there’s “always a concern” there won’t be enough floor votes for passage. “I mean this is, in a lot of eyes, a controversial issue, and there has been a lot of pressure from a lot of powerful folks for and against, and anytime you have that mix, you have to make sure you have your votes, and that’s one of the things that needs to be talked about quite frankly. I’ll put it right on the table.”

Unquestionably Fox, the former House majority leader, knows the climate of the House better than you or I, so much of me wants to defer to his judgment. Maybe he thinks it’s better to bring the bill to a vote after all the furor of last week dies down and people start thinking reasonably again? That’s what it sounds like when he says, “You don’t put something out there to fail if you can avoid that by taking some time to talk to people and making sure you have everything lined up. Rushing into some things is not the best strategy.”

So let’s wait. One more week? 🙂