How sad to see Rhode Island state senators reducing themselves to ankle-biting. From WPRI:
Throughout the year Rhode Island lawmakers always pass “solemnization of marriage” bills, which authorize individuals who aren’t otherwise allowed to do so to perform marriage ceremonies. The marriage approvals must be passed by both chambers of the General Assembly and signed by the governor.
The chambers also use what are known as “consent calendars” – lists of usually non-controversial bills – that are passed as a group in order to save time. On Wednesday night, Senate leaders used the consent calendar to quarantine the solemnization-of-marriage bills for same-sex couples from those for straight ones.
Consent Calendar #2 contained 11 bills, all of which appeared to authorize marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. Consent Calendar #3, by contrast, contained 23 bills – 15 of them allowing marriage ceremonies for straight couples, plus eight bills on other topics passed earlier by the House.
So the solemnization bills for same-sex marriages were segregated from the bills for different-sex marriages. But that was only the start of the pettiness.
Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Newport) hopscotched over “gay” Consent Calendar #2 and called a vote on “straight” Consent Calendar #3, which passed with the customary unanimous vote 30-0 with 8 abstentions.
It wasn’t until an hour later that “gay” Consent Calendar #2 was finally brought to a vote. It passed 24-2, with Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio and Sen. Harold Metts voting against, and 12 abstentions.
A sad tally, when you recall that this wasn’t a vote on whether same-sex couples can marry in Rhode Island. Marriage Equality is already the law in every state in New England. This was a vote on allowing a beloved friend or family member to solemnize the civil marriage of a same-sex couple.
The reason such bills go on a consent calendar is because they’re no-brainer legal formalities. Even Senate President Paiva Weed, who opposes marriage equality, and arch-antigay Sen. Frank Ciccone III voted “yes” on “gay” Consent Calendar #2!
“It’s really an insult and disrespectful, what happened today in the Senate with the marriage bills,” Rep. Frank Ferri told the House later in the evening, according to WRPI. “There’s solemnization-of-marriage bills that they held for 30 days or more and for whatever reason – we don’t know – but when they came out today and voted on them, they actually segregated the same-sex marriage bills and the non-same-sex marriage bills.”
“I mean, to be treated that way is so disrespectful and inexcusable,” Rep. Ferri went on to say. “I’ll just leave it at that. It’s unbelievable.”
The thing is, this despicable behavior, disrespectful as it was to the people of Rhode Island, only serves to damage those who orchestrated it by showing them to be petty and hateful.
The Rhode Island marriage equality law goes into effect on August 1st. Nothing can change that fact.