Just as the Rhode Island House of Representatives takes up a vote on a bill to legalize marriage equality, a Rhode Island state senator has introduced a bill that would place a referendum on the 2014 ballot asking voters to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage by defining marriage as "the lawful union between one man and one woman."
The bill, S0096, introduced Wednesday by Sen. Frank Ciccone (D-Providence, North Providence), would keep in place Rhode Island’s civil unions law for same-sex couples, but would amend the constitution to prohibit same-sex marriages from being recognized. Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an Independent, issued an executive order in 2012 that said the state would recognize legal same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
Ciccone’s bill will likely be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will also hear the marriage-equality bill put forth by Sen. Donna Nesselbush (D-Pawtucket), a lesbian and a member of the Judiciary Committee.
The Providence Journal reports that Judiciary Chairman Sen. Michael McCaffrey (D-Warwick), is a cosponsor of Ciccone’s bill, but said a hearing for either bill would be held "sometime in the spring," telling the Journal, "Obviously, there are more important things than gay marriage to worry about in the state of Rhode Island right now."
Even were it to pass the Judiciary Committee, and then the full Senate, Ciccone’s bill would likely encounter fierce opposition in the House of Representatives, which is led by Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence), who is gay. In addition, Chafee has vowed to veto any legislation that would subject marriage equality to a referendum.
[Photo: Sen. Frank Ciccone (courtesy of the R.I. General Assembly website).]