State Senate holds hearing on same-sex marriage
The state Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing March 21 related to two same-sex marriage bills. The first bill, sponsored by Sen. Donna Nesselbush, removes gender-specific language from the section of the general laws that governs eligibility for marriage. The legislation also addresses state and federal law recognition, applicability in the state of Rhode Island, marriage licenses, protection of freedom of religion in marriages and the merger of civil unions into marriages.
The second bill, sponsored by Sen. Frank Ciccone III, is a resolution calling for a ballot question about the allowance of same-sex marriage with the right of religious people, organizations or institutions to choose not to officiate or provide marriage-related services to same-sex couples.
State Sen. Juan Pichardo of Providence testified in favor of same-sex marriage at the hearing. He asked his colleagues to extend the recognition of love between two people to same-gender couples.
The senator said he supports legalizing same-sex marriage and does not wish to put the issue on the ballot. He called the first bill granting matrimonial rights to same-sex couples an act of humanity and an establishment of equality.
“I do believe that this legislation affording equality to those who marry, regardless of gender, serves to strengthen the institution of marriage, not weaken it. To unify the family unit, not divide it. And to those who may be inclined to oppose this legislation based on their understanding of their religious faith and beliefs, I say they do not need to fear that this bill will in any way infringe upon their religious rights.”