State Representative Katherine Kazarian (Democrat, District 63, East Providence) has introduced a bill, H5238, that would take away the power of some Rhode Island General Assembly legislators to pass judgement on marriages they disapprove us, preventing the institutionalized bigotry currently on display.

Kazarian’s bill would “authorize the governor in his or her discretion to designate a justice of the peace in each town or city, as considered expedient, to solemnize marriages. It would also allow the governor to designate any other person to solemnize a particular marriage on a particular date. There would be a fee to obtain a certificate of designation, whether the application is submitted by mail, hand, facsimile or electronically.”

If passed, the bill would allow anyone to act as an officiant during a marriage after filling out a simple online form, and would allow people to become officiants when the General Assembly is not in session. Right now the General Assembly has to be in session to pass such bills.

For the LGBTQ community, a bill like Kazarian’s will prevent members of the General Assembly from treating their marriages in a second-class fashion. Since Marriage Equality passed in Rhode Island, both the House and the Senate have separated out those solemnization of marriage bills that appear to be for same sex couples and passed the bills separately.

Doing this allows certain legislators, notably Arthur Corvese (Democrat, District 55, North Providence) in the House and Frank Lombardi (Democrat, District 26, Cranston) in the Senate, to abstain or vote no on these marriages. To get a feel for how this works, see here and check out this video:

Kazarian’s bill is the first to try to tackle this issue since 2015, when the Senate passed Senator Michael McCaffrey (Democrat, District 29, Warwick)’s bill that would have sent would be officiants to the Secretary of State’s office and charge a $150 fee. The bill failed to pass in the House.

Kazarian’s bill will be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, February 6, at the Rise of the House (around 4:30pm) in room 205 of the Rhode Island State House. It is a small room, and the committee is hearing 12 other bills.

For more of my coverage on this topic, see:

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