The Rhode Island Senate approved a marriage equality bill 26-12 on Wednesday afternoon, after a spirited if lopsided debate.
A marriage equality bill was approved by the House in January, but slight differences in the Senate bill will need to be approved by the House before being sent to Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who supports the measure. Once law, Rhode Island will become the 10th state with marriage equality.
Democratic Sen. Donna Nesselbush, the chamber’s sole out member, introduced the debate on the bill, saying it would impact her more personally than any other bill and adding, with a laugh, “I even wore a dress.”
All five Republicans in the chamber voted for the bill, which supporters said was the first time an entire party delegation in a chamber has voted for a marriage equality bill.
Several lawmakers gave a nod and thanks to former Sen. Rhoda Perry, a Democrat who had introduced the bill in several previous sessions Sen. Gayle Goldin, who now represents the district Perry had represented, said she was honored to have Perry in the chamber Wednesday.
Sen. Elizabeth Crowley, one of several undecided senators who decided to vote yes, said, “I did not decide until today how I was going to vote,” concluding, “This won’t change my life one bit, but it will change the lives of so many people.”
One of the few lawmakers to speak against the bill, Sen. Harold Metts, quoted from the Bible and dismissed comparisons between the civil rights movement of the 1960s and today, saying, “I can change my sexual preference tonight if I want, but I can’t change my color.” Later, he added, “You can laugh or ignore me if you want, but let me assure you, I did not write the Bible.”
The final speech before the vote, however, came from Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, who said the she struggled with the issue, noting, “I’ve been unable to sleep.” After detailing her pride in her Roman Catholic faith, Goodwin pointed to elsewhere in the Bible for her guidance, concluding, “I will be casting my vote today on the side of love, Madame President.”
3. The Final Speaker, The Vote, And The Celebration:
4. The Vote:
5. The Sponsor:
Rhode Island Sen. Donna Nesselbush
6. The Leading Opponent:
Rhode Island Sen. Harold Metts