Rhode Island: it might be the smallest state in the U.S. in terms of size, but it could create some major social change in 2011 by joining the ranks of states that recognize same-sex marriage.
But don't grab yourself a glass of celebratory coffee milk yet. Because Rhode Island is also a state where the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is hunkering down and gearing up for a knock out, drag out fight against marriage equality supporters. And they're uniting with another official hate group, the Family Research Council (FRC), to put pressure on lawmakers to nix equality for same-sex couples.
NOM's Rhode Island chapter is stepping up their lobbying efforts with a plea for people to contact Rhode Island legislators and demand that the issue of marriage equality be put up for popular vote. In January, they're holding an event with the FRC to bring anti-gay religious leaders together, to brainstorm ways to stop marriage equality.
Their urgency on this issue is perhaps justified, given that they're not only on the wrong side of history, but they're swimming against popular opinion in Rhode Island, where clear majorities favor marriage equality for same-sex couples. Just a couple months ago, a poll surveying Rhode Islanders on the issue of marriage equality found that 59 percent support same-sex marriage. And this was across age, religion, and political affiliation.
And now, with the election of Lincoln Chafee as the state's next governor, NOM no longer has an ally as the state's chief executive. Chafee has made clear time and again that he supports full marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Just a few weeks ago, Chafee's office sent a letter to NOM's Rhode Island chapter, letting them know that the Governor-elect does not support putting civil rights up for popular vote.
"Marriage equality is a basic right that should be extended to all Rhode Islanders — a question not only of fairness and justice, but of economic development as well," Chafee's staff iterated. The letter gave every indication that if a marriage equality bill reaches Chafee's desk, he'll sign it into law.
So now all eyes are turning to Rhode Island's General Assembly. That's where NOM's Rhode Island chapter has started to focus, publishing a list of contact information for all of Rhode Island's State Senators (h/t Good As You). But it's also where marriage equality advocates are focused, too, including Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI). They wrote in a Christmas Eve blog post that all hands need to be on deck in order to make marriage equality a reality in Rhode Island.
"In just two weeks, the marriage equality bill will be introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly and we are poised to make history by passing this critical piece of legislation," Kathy Kushnir wrote for MERI. "We are almost there, and we need you to let your legislators know that Rhode Islanders want equality, and that they want it NOW!"
Amen, and pass the potatoes. Which is why it's all the more pertinent and timely for Rhode Island's legislature to hear from you. Click here to send a message urging legislators to move Rhode Island in the direction of marriage equality. Time is of the essence, and the first part of 2011 could deliver a major victory for gay rights advocates, and a major defeat for hate groups like NOM and the FRC.
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New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut
Same-sex marriage is legal or has been legalized in four of the six New England states. These states include Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire. The New England region has been noted for being the nucleus of the same-sex marriage movement in the United States,with the region having amongst the most widespread and earliest legal support.
In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage, to be followed by three more states between October 2008 and June 2009. This followed Vermont being the first-in-the-nation with civil unions in 2000.Currently, Iowa and the District of Columbia are the only U.S. jurisdictions outside New England performing same-sex marriages, and California performed them for five months in mid 2008.
The legalization of same-sex marriage was part of a campaign which began in November 2008, called Six by Twelve, and was organized by the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) to legalize same-sex marriage in all six New England states by 2012.
The region holds a number of firsts on same-sex marriage: Vermont was the first state to enact it through legislative means and not because of a judicial ruling, and Maine was the first state to have a governor sign a same-sex marriage bill that was not the result of a court decision. However, Maine's gay marriage law was repealed through a people's veto.
Rhode Island and Maine are the New England states that do not have same-sex marriage.
Legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island!
Please do something. Fight for equality! Same-sex couples deserve respect.
It's time to legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island!
[Your name here]