The Phoenix Network:
 
 
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
 

Will the Senate kill gay marriage — again?

Yes, it seems — unless this fall’s elections shake up the chamber
By DAVID SCHARFENBERG  |  August 8, 2012

Marriage_main

When same-sex marriage legislation died in the General Assembly last summer without so much as a vote, attention focused on openly gay Speaker of the House Gordon Fox. Had he done enough? Had he pulled the plug too soon? Had he failed the gay and lesbian community?

So when Fox announced recently that he would bring gay nuptials up for a vote early next year, it was tempting to focus on his play for redemption, for legacy. But if that's part of the story, it is only part. The truth is Rhode Island's same-sex marriage fight is centered not in the House, but in the Senate.

Fox spiked the gay nuptials bill last year, in no small part, because he thought it would die in the upper chamber. And if he's able to get it through the House next year, as expected, it'll be the Senate playing the determinative role again.

At the moment, the terrain there doesn't look all that inviting for advocates.

Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed is an opponent of same-sex nuptials. So is her second-in-command, Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Michael McCaffrey, who has jurisdiction over the bill, is opposed too.

Moreover, a Phoenix analysis of the full chamber suggests that about half of the state Senate is anti-gay marriage, with roughly a third in favor, and the balance in the toss-up category.

For all the momentum surrounding the gay marriage fight — from President Obama's endorsement of same-sex nuptials to Fox's recent announcement — the reality is pretty stark: if the Senate remains largely unchanged next year, gay marriage advocates have little shot at victory.

That's why the state's last great civil rights fight may be won or lost — at least in the short term — with this fall's elections.


'A CHEAP DATE'

There was a time when the country's gay rights activists focused almost exclusively on national politics. And until President Obama's reluctant activism took hold, they were mostly disappointed with the results.

But in recent years, under the leadership of reclusive Colorado technology magnate Tim Gill, wealthy gay donors have grown increasingly sophisticated about electoral politics — targeting low-cost, state-level races that can tip the balance on same-sex marriage and other key issues.

Gill's circle of donors have dabbled in Rhode Island politics: donating to various legislative candidates in the last election cycle and supporting advocacy group Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI).

But the Gill Action Fund's marquee effort, to date, is its Fight Back New York campaign, which helped knock off three state senators and set the stage for passage of same-sex marriage legislation there.

Ray Sullivan, executive director of MERI, says his organization is patterning its electoral effort this fall after Fight Back New York; indeed, Marriage Equality's political action committee recently changed its name to Fight Back Rhode Island.

Sullivan, a former state representative who is considered among the sharpest political operatives in Rhode Island, says the "fight back" meme can empower gay marriage proponents and serve as an effective fundraising tool. And there are other lessons to be drawn from the Empire State campaign, too: the focus on a handful of winnable races, for instance.

1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
  Topics: News Features , Same-Sex Marriage, Senate, Gay marriage,  More more >
| More


[ 04/23 ]   6th Annual SENE Film, Music & Arts Festival  @ Warwick Museum of Art
[ 04/23 ]   Veronica Meadows, by Stephen Thorne  @ Trinity Repertory Company
[ 04/23 ]   "Graphic Design: Now in Production,"  @ RISD Museum
ARTICLES BY DAVID SCHARFENBERG
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   LIBERAL WARRIOR  |  April 10, 2013
    When it comes to his signature issues — climate change, campaign finance reform, tax fairness — Whitehouse makes little secret of his approach: marshal the facts, hammer the Republicans, and embarrass them into action.
  •   AT BROWN, A WIN FOR CLIMATE CHANGE ACTIVISTS  |  April 11, 2013
    A key Brown University oversight committee has voted to recommend the school divest from coal, delivering a significant victory to student climate change activists.
  •   HACKING POLITICS: A GUIDE  |  April 03, 2013
    Last year, the Internet briefly upended everything we know about American politics.
  •   BREAK ON THROUGH  |  March 28, 2013
    When I spoke with Treasurer Gina Raimondo this week, I opened with the obligatory question about whether she'll run for governor. "I'm seriously considering it," she said. "But I think as you know — we've talked about it before — I have little kids: a six-year-old, an eight-year-old. I'm a mother. It's a big deal."
  •   THE LIBERAL CASE FOR GUNS  |  March 27, 2013
    The school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut spurred hope not just for sensible gun regulation, but for a more nuanced discussion of America's gun culture. Neither wish has been realized.

 See all articles by: DAVID SCHARFENBERG



  |  Sign In  |  Register
 
thePhoenix.com:
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
TODAY'S FEATURED ADVERTISERS
Copyright © 2014 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group