2013-04-25 / News

Same-sex marriage approved by Senate committee

The state Senate Judiciary Committee passed legislation Tuesday allowing same-sex marriage and a vote was taken on the Senate floor Wednesday. Results of the vote were not available at press time.

The amended companion bills remove gender-specific language from the section of the general laws that governs eligibility for marriage. They insert language that allows any person to marry any other eligible person, regardless of gender, effective Aug. 1.

The bills also reiterate constitutionally guaranteed freedom for religious institutions to set their own guidelines for marriage eligibility within their faith, and stipulate that under no circumstances will clergy or others authorized to perform marriages be obligated by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage.

Also, a religious organization, association or society, and any nonprofit institution operated, supervised or controlled by a religious or fraternal organization is required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges to an individual if they are related to:

• The solemnization of marriage or the celebration of a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs and faith;

• The promotion of marriage through any social or religious program or services, which violates the religious doctrine of that religious organization, association or society.

Under provisions of the amended bills, two people who have entered into a civil union may become married after applying for a marriage license and having the marriage solemnized. Civil unions will no longer be available after the effective date. However, the state will recognize the civil union of anyone who has entered into one before the effective date or outside of the state.

The committee voted 7-4 to approve the mirroring bills and send them to the floor for a full vote. If approved by the full Senate, both bills would be sent back to the House. The full House of Representatives voted 51-19 to pass the original bill in January.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who last year signed an executive order requiring all state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, has stated his support of the legislation.

The committee voted down another same-sex marriage bill that would have put the issue of samesex marriage on a statewide referendum.

Rhode Island is the only New England state that does not allow same-sex marriage. Currently nine states and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex couples to marry. Also on Tuesday, French lawmakers approved legislation allowing samesex marriage, making France the ninth European country to allow such a measure.

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