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Rhode Island may show up Land of Lincoln on same-sex marriage vote
Rhode Island state Sen. Donna Nesselbush, D-Pawtucket, center, reacts seconds after the state senate passed a same-sex marriage bill at the Statehouse, in Providence, R.I., Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Nesselbush was the main sponsor of the bill. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Same sex marriage advocates had been pushing for Illinois to be the 10th state to legalize same sex marriage.
But as Illinois Republican in-fighting and consternation within the black caucus put the brakes on — at least temporarily — same sex marriage legislation in the Illinois Legislature, Rhode Island came up with a surprise this week.
The New England state is likely to snag the recognition as being the 10th state to pass the measure after a bill legalizing same sex marriage advanced out of both houses. On Wednesday, the Rhode Island senate passed the measure with each of its Republican members voting in favor of it. It goes back to the house because of some changes, but ultimately a vote on May 2 is anticipated to send the bill to the governor, who said he would sign it.
“We celebrate this victory and applaud the state of Rhode Island for taking this step toward treating all families equally under the law,” said Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) said in a statement. Harris is the chief House sponsor of the Illinois marriage bill, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.
Same sex marriage advocates say they believe they are closer to getting the 60 necessary votes to pass the matter out of the Illinois House. The senate approved the measure on Valentine’s Day.
Those in opposition, however, continue to push back.
Robert Gilligan, Executive Director for the Catholic Conference of Illinois, said that Rhode Island’s legislation used much clearer language that would protect religious institutions from having to conform with the law. Gilligan said he wasn’t confident that current Illinois language would protect Catholic schools, for instance, from having to conform with the proposed law.
“Let’s make it clear, let’s not use descriptors,” Gilligan told the Sun-Times. “If you really, really want to protect us on these issues, let’s just make it clear.”