Could gay marriage be the crevassing issue for Rhode Island Democrats?
It sure looks that way. The Rhode Island Democratic Party has stood strong through divisive primaries and other issues but this time, there is an explosive issues with Democrats on both sides of it.
While some heavy hitting Democrats like Speaker of the House Gordon Fox are pushing for marriage equality, there seems to be a stand off with Democrats in the House and the Democrats in the Senate.
For one, Senate President Teresa-Paiva Weed has made it clear she opposes gay marriage. She has however agreed to let it go to the Senate floor for a vote.
Yesterday, in what he says is an attempt to reach a compromise, Senator Frank Ciccone introduced a bill calling for a statewide referendum on same-sexed marriage.
But that is not good enough to proponents of marriage equality. Ray Sullivan, the leader of Rhode Islanders for Marriage Equality said that marriage is a "fundamental right" and should not be "subjected to a vote by the majority." Governor Chafee agreed.
Meanwhile, a recent Brown University Poll suggests that same-sexed marriage would prevail in a referendum.
The issue of who should be allowed to marry has truly drawn a dividing line among liberals and to a lesser extent conservatives.
The younger activists on both sides generally tend to support marriage equality whereas, the older and more religious fundamentalists in both parties oppose it. This is a much bigger problem in the Democratic Party where young people who tend to embrace more liberal ideals have found a home.
It's a true generation gap. The younger generation grew up with "gay being okay" in the 90's and the 2000's. Some of the most iconic celebrities of our time were openly gay, "Loud and Proud." Gay pride became more common place.
Decades earlier homosexuality was more "underground" and "unacceptable." The generation gap seems only natural. The younger generations have embraced homosexuality and the older generations are sticking to the morals of the times they were raised in.
To gay marriage proponents it is insulting to say whether they should be allowed equal rights must be decided by popular vote, at the same time it's arguably equally insulting to say that state political leaders with their own agendas should be charged with making the choice.
Same-sexed marriage is coming, one-way or another in time it will surely prevail. The question for Rhode Island is will it divide the Democratic party between traditionalists and younger marriage-equality enthusiasts or will the party reach some compromise to reconcile the attitudes of the younger generations with that of the older.
Ciccone said the General Assembly has spent enough time on "same-sexed" marriage, let the voters decide. If the issue does go to the voters it may deepen the divide in the party as each side will rally the troops to come out and vote in favor or against.
Another problem gay marriage presents for the Democrats is that if it doesn't pass the Senate many of those who advocate for gay marriage will organize and rally on Election Day against those who opposed them. They could amount to a powerful force of young, energetic and motivated individuals who could possibly sway the 2014 Democratic Primary results.
Because Democrats in the Senate are so divided on the issue many probably hope the bill gets stalled in committee. If the bill dies in the Senate Judiciary Committee that could mean bad news for the members who "kill the bill," but good news for Senators who don't support gay marriage but are afraid of the repercussions of voting against it.
Either way the issue is certainly an interesting one and a tricky one for Rhode Island Democrats.