The Rhode Island Senate has passed marriage equality legislation through a Senate Judiciary Committee today with a 7-4 vote following an earlier endorsement by Republican senators in favor of the bill.
Those Republican senators endorsed marriage equality with a unanimous decision via a letter, declaring that “gay and lesbian couples deserve to be treated equally under the law.”
The legislation is expected to be heard by the full 38 member Senate tomorrow.
“Our Senate Republican Caucus is deeply committed to the values of freedom, liberty and limited government,” said the letter. “In accordance with those values, we believe that freedom means freedom for everyone, and that every citizen of Rhode Island deserves the freedom to marry the person they love.”
Rhode Island for Marriage United Campaign Director Ray Sullivan was happy to see the entire Senate Republican Caucus approve the legislation.
“We applaud their courage and their conviction in standing up for all loving, committed couples and their freedom to marry,” he said in a press release. “That this is the first legislative caucus of either party to unanimously support marriage equality is a testament to the bravery and strength of character of these five senators. We thank them for their support, and look forward to their voting in favor of S38.”
Senate Bill 38 extends civil aspects to all citizens of Rhode Island with gay couples receiving equal treatment under the law while protecting the freedom of religion.
“At the same time churches, synagogues and mosques in our state must be free to exercise their faith and their sacraments as they see fit,” the letter continues, “this bill strikes the right balance and should be passed by the Senate.”
With only five Republicans in the 38-member Senate, they have joined 209 other Republican state legislators across the US who have officially supported marriage equality.
“The unanimous endorsement from the Senate Republican Caucus shows that marriage for gay and lesbian couples isn’t a partisan issue — but an issue of fairness that supersedes politics,” said Sullivan. “We’re incredibly grateful for the support of these five courageous senators.”
According to a February poll from Brown University, 60 percent of Rhode Island citizens support marriage equality, a three percent increase from a previous poll the university conducted the month before.
“As a united Senate Republican Caucus, we are proud to add our voices to reaffirm the principles of freedom and equality under the law,” the letter concluded. “The Rhode Island Senate GOP Caucus [is]the first legislative caucus of either political party in any state to unanimously support the freedom to marry.”