Folks, it’s been a good week for marriage equality, both in the U.S. and abroad. Here are the main headlines so you can keep up-to-date with the equal rights fight.
1) Rhode Island Senate Says Yes to Marriage Equality
Rhode Island’s Senate Judiciary Committee approved, in a 7-4 vote, a marriage equality bill on Tuesday while later voting down a counterproposal to put the issue of marriage equality to a referendum. What’s more, all five Republican members of the 38-member Senate committed to supporting marriage equality.
“Today we join the 209 other Republican state legislators across America who have stood up for the freedom to marry. [We are] deeply committed to the values of freedom, liberty and limited government. 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. We support Senate Bill 38 because it rightfully extends the civil aspects of marriage to all Rhode Islanders while protecting the freedom of religion our state was founded upon.”
The full Senate voted 26-12 on Wednesday to legalize marriage equality.
The House voted 51-19 in January to first advance the bill. The measure must now return to the House for a final vote, where it is expected to pass. Governor Lincoln Chafee has committed to signing the bill.
Rhode Island will join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Maine, Maryland, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia and three Native American tribes, in recognizing same-sex marriage.
2) Nevada Senate Says Yes to Gay Marriage
The Nevada Senate passed a resolution late on Monday in a first step to repealing the state’s ban on marriage equality.
Senate Joint Resolution 13 aims to repeal a 2002 voter-enacted constitutional amendment banning recognition of same-sex marriage while also declaring Nevada recognizes all marriages regardless of gender.
The resolution passed in a 12-9 vote that saw Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer (Reno) voting with the Democratic majority.
Monday’s legislative debate on the issue also saw Nevada State Senator Kelvin Atkinson (D-North Las Vegas) officially come out. While it was no secret that Atkinson is gay, until now, he had not addressed the issue so explicitly during legislative debate.
“I’m 44 years old. I have a daughter. I’m black. I’m gay. I have dealt with a lot of what folks are talking about. And I know some of you are first time hearing me say that. That I am a black gay male,” Atkinson told colleagues in testimony you can listen to in full here.
The resolution now heads to the Assembly. If passed, and then once again passed by both chambers in 2015, the measure will go before voters for ratification in 2016.
3) Delaware House Passes Marriage Equality Bill!
Delaware’s state House voted on Tuesday to narrowly approve marriage equality in a 23-18 vote.
The vote saw five Democratic legislators break party lines and vote against the measure. Republican Rep. Michael Ramone of Newark voted in favor of the bill and was the only Republican to do so.
Democratic Governor Jack Markell has promised to sign the bill if it can survive the Legislature.
The measure now heads to the Democratic-controlled Senate where another close vote is expected.
4) Lawmaker Who Holds Swing-Vote in Minnesota Announces Support for Marriage Equality
Minnesota’s groundbreaking turn from fending off a 2012 constitutional amendment banning marriage equality to potentially being among the next handful of states to legalize same-sex marriage rights in 2013 continues apace with Senator Kent Eken, who previously voted along with four other Democrats to side with Republicans to block a same-sex marriage bill from being debated, now announcing he will likely vote in favor of marriage equality if a bill reaches the floor.
Put simply, Eken says his district has bigger things to worry about and now that he has heard from many constituents who favor the bill he feels that “People are just becoming more accepting of it. Even among many who are against it, there’s a feeling that it’s inevitable, that it’s going to happen.”
The bill could be debated within the next few weeks, most likely in the State House first. While getting a firm tally on support is difficult because several Democratic lawmakers remain indecisive, with Eken having confirmed he will likely support the bill it appears that the necessary number of votes are now within reach.
If the state legislature can pass the bill, Democratic Governor Mark Dayton has said he will sign the legislation. Should that happen, marriage equality would go into force in Minnesota on August 1.
5) French National Assembly Says ‘Oui’ to Marriage Equality
Despite the violence, intimidation and lying rhetoric from those opposed to the bill, France’s National Assembly on Tuesday voted 331 to 225 in favor of France’s marriage equality legislation, which after some wrangling will also include adoption rights for same-sex married couples. While this was largely procedural as the lower chamber had previously approved the bill and was simply giving a nod to reconcile the legislation with the Senate-approved version, there was always very remote chance that lawmakers might cave to pressure and withdraw the bill. They did not, the death threats to legislators didn’t work, and marriage equality is expected to be law by August.
This sees France join Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, and New Zealand in recognizing marriage equality.
Image credit: Thinkstock.