Rhode Island, Illinois Legislators Get Marriage Equality Bills
After four states passed gay marriage measures in 2012, lawmakers in Rhode Island and Illinois have introduced bills that could legalize same-sex marriage in 2013.
The Providence Journal reports that State Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Cranston) will introduce legislation that allows same-sex couples to tie the knot in Rhode Island on Thursday. Handy, the measure’s longtime sponsor, said the bill has been drafted but needs signatures from co-sponsors, which includes out-gay House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence).
Like other such laws in the states that have legalized same-sex marriage, there are very specific "religious carve outs." The bill’s language will grant religious groups protections if they object -- particularly important in one of the nation’s most heavily Roman Catholic states.
A 2011 version of the legislation cited the First Amendment. It stated that every religious institution has "exclusive control over its own religious doctrine, policy, and teachings regarding who may marry within their faith, and on what terms."
It went on to state, "No court or other state or local governmental body, entity, agency or commission shall compel, prevent, or interfere in any way with any religious institution’s decisions about marriage eligibility within that particular faith’s tradition" and that "ordained clergy, ministers or elders [...] shall not be obligated or otherwise required by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage."
If lawmakers pass the revised bill, Rhode Island would be the 10th state to recognize marriage equality. It is also the last domino in New England. With the passage last November in Maine, all five other states -- plus New York just south of New England -- have marriage equality enshrined as law.
Bipartisan Support in Illinois
Same-sex couples in Illinois may also be allowed to marry this year. A new bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the state will go before a State Senate committee. CBS Chicago reported that supporters include famous Illinois personages such as President Barack Obama and actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson of "Modern Family."