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General Assembly persists in its policy of institutionalized bigotry against the LGBTQ community



Since the passage of marriage equality in Rhode Island, certain State Representatives and Senators in the General Assembly have continued to express their bigotry and homophobia through a policy of separating Solemnization of Marriage bills for same-sex couples from those of straight couples. Once separated, these state legislators either abstain from voting on the same-sex marriages or vote against them in what some people are calling institutionalized homophobia.

Nationally, Solemnization of Marriage bills are pretty unusual. In most states, if a couple wants a “nontraditional” marriage officiant to perform their marriage, there’s a simple online process to do so, or a mid-level public official who makes it happen for a standard fee. In Rhode Island, couples must reach out to a General Assembly member and ask for a Solemnization of Marriage bill to be passed.

These bills are pretty popular, and eat up a fair amount of legislative bandwidth. Jennifer McDermott from the Associated Press wrote in 2015 that, “So many people did it last year in Rhode Island that nearly 20 percent of legislation sent to the governor involved a marriage solemnization bill, more than any other category of bills.”

On Tuesday evening, the Senate Judiciary Committee took up four Solemnization of Marriage bills. The first bill taken up was S0075, a bill introduced by Senator Louis DiPalma (Democrat, District 12, Little Compton, Middletown) to allow “Daniel R. Baker to join Christy Caroline Baker and Amber Lynn Stewart in marriage on or about August 25, 2019, within the City of Newport, Rhode Island.”

That bill passed out of the committee with one abstention, that of Senator Frank Lombardi (Democrat, District 26, Cranston) a conservative Catholic theocrat who has long opposed LGBTQ rights. Senate Judiciary Chair Erin Lynch Prata (Democrat, District 31, Warwick, Cranston) then “bundled” the remaining solemnization of marriage bills so that they could all be voted on together, which is standard procedure. The three remaining Solemnization of Mariage bills, S0079, S0087 and S0088 were passed unanimously.

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You can watch the video here:

Notably, if your were watching from home, you would not have seen Lombardi’s abstention. The camera stays tight on Chair Lynch Prada, and no mention is made as to why one solemnization of marriage bill was separated out to be voted on separately:

I have been writing about this issue for years. Until something is done about it, we don’t really have marriage equality in Rhode Island, do we?

My past coverage (and a piece by Len Katzman):

Separate and Unequal: How certain State Senators continue to pass judgement on same sex marriages

In the RI State Senate, LGBTQ marriage is separated and unequal

State representatives still trolling LGBTQ marriages

To oppose marriage equality is to prevent Jews from practicing their faith

RI General Assembly still voting on marriage equality

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.

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