The gay marriage bill in Rhode Island unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday afternoon with a 12 to 0 vote.
After overcoming the first hurdle the bill will now go to the House floor for a full vote. This marks the first time in Rhode Island history that gay marriage has ever made it to the House floor for a full vote.
If the bill manages to pass the RI house of Representatives it will move on to a bigger hurdle, passing in the Rhode Island Senate.
In 2011 the same sexed marriage proposal was stalled in the House of Representatives when it was held for further study in the House Judiciary committee. As a result the House Speaker, Gordon Fox, pushed for the approval of civil unions which passed both the House and the Senate. This year Fox along with Gov. Chafee have renewed the push to legalize same sex marriage.
Gay marriage has only seen one true vote in favor or against the bill in Rhode Island's history. That vote was in 2001 when Congressman Cicilline who was a state representative at the time pushed the House Judiciary Committee to vote in favor or against the gay marriage proposal. Cicilline has the distinction of being the only representative to this day to have a vote on record in favor of the bill, the rest of the House Judiciary committee in 2001 reject the measure.
To mark the historic passage of the bill in the House Judiciary Committee Cicilline released the following statement, "
"I applaud the action of the House Judiciary Committee. Following President Obama's inaugural address that called for gay Americans to be treated equally under the law, I am pleased that the House Judiciary Committee has taken the first step towards enacting full marriage equality in our state. This important effort has received the support of a growing number of Rhode Islanders from nearly every political background and religious tradition, and I believe it is time our state recognizes the dignity and value of relationships between committed and loving individuals of the same gender by enacting full marriage equality in Rhode Island."
Gay marriage has been proposed in the Senate several times but has been held for further study and never seen a vote in favor or against the bill.
The issue has sparked controversy with advocates on both sides of the issue boisterously rallying at the State House over the past couple of weeks.
Rhode Island is currently the only state in New England that does not allow gay marriage.
UPDATE from ABC6 Reporter Mark Curtis: The final House vote will be this Thursday evening, sometime after the House convenes at 4 p.m.
by Mark Curtis, ABC6 Chief Political Reporter
It was a historic vote.
The Rhode Island
House Judiciary Committee - for the first time ever - voted to send a same sex
marriage bill to the floor.
One couple has big plans if the bill becomes law.
"We'll get married. We'll have a big party," said
Josephine O'Connell and her partner Mary Ellen Butke.
While the committee vote was unanimous to move the bill
along, one member will eventually vote no when it hits the house floor."
State Rep. Doreen Costa (R-RI) said, "I believe
marriage is between a man and a woman."
ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis said, "The
House has enough votes to pass it; the Senate vote will be tough."
Advocates for same sex marriage remain optimistic the bill
can become law, even though some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee
could block a vote.
Ray Sullivan from Marriage Equality Rhode Island said, "It's
finally time to pass this historic legislation."
Gay marriage opponents are promising to fight on, but if it
passes, Rhode Island would become the final New England state to say "yes" to same sex marriage.
The full House vote is scheduled for Thursday evening.