PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) —Gay marriage advocates in Rhode Island vowed last week to push for marriage legislation next year following an election that saw supporters gain seats in the state's General Assembly.
When the state legislature convenes in January, there will be several additional supporters of same-sex marriage, according to Ray Sullivan, campaign director for the advocacy group Fight Back RI.
Significantly, many of the new supporters are in the state Senate, which advocates see as the main obstacle to passing a gay marriage law. They include Democrats Adam Satchell of West Warwick, Ryan Pearson of Cumberland and Catherine Cool Rumsey of Exeter— all candidates who were backed by Sullivan's group.
House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is openly gay, plans to call a vote on gay marriage in the House after lawmakers return to the Statehouse in January. The Providence Democrat cited gains in the General Assembly and gay marriage victories around the nation as evidence that the public supports the effort to allow same-sex couples to wed.
“This election shows there's been a real change on this issue,”Fox told The Associated Press. “I'm hopeful. There's definitely a trend here. There's a wave and we should ride it.”
Voters in Maine and Maryland passed gay marriage referendums in last week’s election. In Minnesota, voters rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have prohibited gay marriage.
Rhode Island does not permit gay couples to wed but does recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, following an executive order by Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a gay marriage supporter. Rhode Island is now the only state in New England that does not allow gay marriage.
Sullivan said Fight Back RI will not support putting a gay marriage question on the ballot but instead will focus on passing legislation to authorize it.
“We are emboldened by the momentum of this election cycle and will steadfastly work to make 2013 the year that Governor Chafee finally signs marriage equality into law,” he said in a statement.
Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, however, remains a powerful obstacle to passing such a law. An opponent of gay marriage, the Newport Democrat has said it is premature to discuss whether the Senate would vote on the issue next year. She did not respond to requests for comment from the AP.