By: Clara Lefton/TRT Reporter–
Rhode Island House of Representatives’ Speaker, Gordon Fox (D), has recently vowed to bring marriage equality to a vote as early as next year, pending his re-election this fall.
“Should I be fortunate enough to be elected by my constituents of my district in Providence, and then by my peers as speaker, I am committed to bringing marriage equality to a vote early in the 2013 House session. I believe there is momentum that has built since the 2011 vote,” promised Fox in an email to The Rainbow Times.
The move may come as a surprise after the openly gay speaker refused to take marriage equality to the floor last April. Instead, he supported a civil union bill, which passed last July. Since then, Fox has been adamant about pushing harder on the issue in the future.
“I have been a supporter and past sponsor of marriage equality legislation for many years. In 2011, I was fully aware that the votes did not exist for full passage of the legislation. It was important, as a backstop, to begin the process through the passage of a civil union bill,” explained Fox in his email. “But I never thought that the bill was the end, but rather only the beginning, and I said at the time that I would not stop in my efforts to achieve full marriage equality.”
According to the Rhode Island ACLU, only 68 civil union licenses were given out in the last year, since first being issued on July 1, 2011. According to Fox, he was disappointed, but thought that it was important for citizens to have the option to receive rights that had been unavailable to them.
Last May, Independent Governor Lincoln Chafee passed an executive order that gave residents the opportunity to have their out-of-state same-sex marriages recognized by Rhode Island. Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) worked for almost seven months with him on the project.
“They were very professional, responsive and thorough — they wanted to make sure we were doing it right …To the governor’s credit he has never swayed from his pro equality position, he’s been an ardent supporter, he was one of the only governors in the country to mention marriage equality in his inaugural address,” said MERI Campaign Director Ray Sullivan.
“I am counting on [Chafee] to help with the effort to secure passage of the legislation next year,” said Fox. “I am confident that the House will approve full marriage equality in 2013.”
Although a marriage equality bill has been on the table for the Rhode Island legislature since 1997 consecutively, it has never been passed. The controversial issue has brought citizens like Kevin Cruz of Middletown, RI to participate in protests at the Rhode Island State House.
“You can just cut the tension with a knife at rallies because of everyone’s own stake and input,” said Cruz, a student at the University of Rhode Island, who also works as a health and safety specialist at the school’s LGBT Center. “I am not satisfied with the unions that we have been given — but at least we have something to cushion the blow. Eventually the state will come to its senses and accept marriage equality in Rhode Island.”
Fox was elected in 2010, after beginning his career as a member of legislature in 1992. He will be up for another two year term if re-elected in 2013 and confirmed by the House.
MERI received a questionnaire filled out by Fox a few weeks ago with his name signed to the bottom. The comment he left read, “I am committed to calling a vote on same sex marriage early in the 2013 session, if reelected.” Sullivan took a picture and tweeted the image on Fight Back RI.
“All you have in this world is your word and I believe him when he says he’s going to call a vote,” said Sullivan.
Filed Under: Eastern NE News