What happened to Marriage Equality in RI?

The Players

Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI)
RI Speaker Gordon Fox
RI Senate President M. Theresa Paiva-Weed

The Situation

We had a solid lock on the Rhode Island House of Representatives. This was even verified by Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Rep. Edith Ajello who said that during January and February, we were moving full speed ahead.

And I can verify what Rep. Ajello said. I have seen the tally board at MERI several times and the number who would vote FOR marriage equality in the House was not only a majority, but one that would have overridden a veto. There are 75 members of the House and you need a 3/5’s majority to override a veto, and that comes out to 45 representatives that needed to vote for the marriage euality bill.

But during the past week, House Speaker Gordon Fox quashed the bill saying he didn’t have the votes necessary. What he really meant was that Senate President Paiva-Weed wasn’t playing ball. So he told a half-truth there.

Instead he substituted a civil unions bill. In essence it goes on ad infinitum to try and enumerate all the rights present in marriage to civil unions but falls miserably short of the mark. I do not support the civil union bill, I support the marriage equality bill.

What Happened?

First we see MERI falling apart due to internal strife. That internal strife only came about after the addition of three former state Representatives to the mix, all Speaker Fox supporters. The only problem is that one of them whom I’ve met, doesn’t know his ass from his elbow about effecting political change.

The one I’ve met is one Ray Sullivan. I met him curiously enough at a Cinco De Mayo party hosted by Ted Jendzejec who I once worked with. Anyhow Sullivan’s behavior that evening lead me to sum it up as follows:

Overgrown Juvenile Delinquent.

I hear that Sullivan is countermanding planning for field operations. So why do they still have a field operations person at MERI?

It is at the same time that Sullivan came in that HRC and GLAAD suddenly took an interest in the marriage equality fight in Rhode Island. I have heard that HRC isn’t going to lift a finger to push for marriage equality in this legislative session but wait until the 2012 election season. I’m told that if you look at the debacle in Maryland you can swap out the state with Rhode Island and it’s the same exact situation playing out here.

So if we connect the dots we see that Speaker Fox likely pulled strings to get Sullivan and Company into MERI. After all, all three (Sullivan, Pacheco, and Segal) served with then Majority Leader Fox. If that is the case, and I’m awaiting more information, then Fox needs to come correct and move the bill for a vote.

I think the reason it happened was because MERI was becoming something of a political force. I had always said that MERI needed to act more like a political entity if we wanted to move forward. For example, they had volunteers at every public event in RI collecting signatures on postcards to send to Representatives and Senators. They started doing canvassing and phone banking.

In essence they were doing everything a politician would do if he or she were running for office. And I think that scared Fox. I did tell the powers at MERI that we needed to coddle the supporters, and sting the opponents. But I think Fox misinterpreted all of it because he had the perception that MERI was gunning for him.

So he reacted and here we are in the mess in Rhode Island with regard to marriage equality.

I’ll be periodically posting and updating as I talk to more people. As it is MERI has seen the departure of Executive Director Kathy Kushnir, Spokesperson Bill Fischer, Board members Joyce Anderle and Richard Corso, and employee Emma Garrett Nelson.

I’m also told the mood within MERI is now very stressful. I’m hearing from volunteers that they are seriously reconsidering doing things like phone banking etc. because they think we don’t care about the issue. I told that person we do care and that person related to me one gay couple that was spoken to during phone banking. They told that they married in CT and really couldn’t care about RI.

They should care. Your CT marriage doesn’t get you any privileges here in RI. In fact it was only last year that the legislature threw us a bone and gave us the right to bury our deceased partners.

Mark my words, the only way Rhode Island is going to see marriage equality is if the courts rule on it. But then we have to look at the other GLAD who thinks the RI judiciary is hostile to the cause. I should correct them, they’re not hostile to the cause, you just have to argue the case for what it is, a blatant violation of our civil rights.

7 thoughts on “What happened to Marriage Equality in RI?

  1. I just volunteered with MERI and the mood isn’t anything but upbeat and positive!

    The staff has pulled together, and we are phone banking like crazy to get the word out to legislators that our constituents support the Handi Amendment, which upgrades the Civil Union Bill, back to “Marriage” and marriage equality!

    You really need to expand your scope beyond a disgruntled employee with an ex to grind, and a score to settle.

    First – MERI is NOT falling apart, it’s gone through growing pains and transition, from a laid back grass roots organization, to a serious ass-kicking advocacy group that’s actually reaching out to Rhode Islanders in every corner!

    Second – Ray Sullivan (and no, I didn’t know him prior to him joining MERI) is the best thing that’s happened to that organization in quite some time! He’s brought energy, organization, dedication, commitment and class to the group!

    Third – HRC and GLAAD were interested in helping MERI, and RI gain Marriage Equality all along. They just could never get an affirmative response out of Ms. Kushnir.

    Fourth – The way marriage equality is going to come to Rhode Island is for it’s gay and lesbian community to stop acting like closeted jelly fish, and COME OUT, and DEMAND IT! And I’m not talking about the same 500 who always come to the state house, and speak up! I’m talking about the other 45,000 who never want to seem to be bothered!

    Rhode Island has a huge gay community, and they shouldn’t be relying on residents who moved to California 15 years ago to be pushing their rights forward. It’s time this community ban together, and accept nothing less than full equality!

    And please, STOP blaming the folks at MERI who are working their tails off, for you, and for me… Maybe the problem is with those who have QUIT the CAUSE?

    1. well I’m glad you’re having a positive experience it marriage equality rhode island however I will states that there is a marked
      disconnect due to the fact that we were the coast rhode island has ever been to having marriage equality this year before the apple cart was upset so I believe you can understand why I am so irritated by this whole change, it signals to me that l will have to WAIT a minimum of one year to possibly four years got full equality!

  2. I can certainly understand why anyone would be incredibly upset by the turn of events at the State House.

    The mere fact that we’ve had to wait our entire lives for equality we should have been born with is incredibly disturbing to me. We live in the US, not Iran, and it’s high time the bigots and homophobes at the Statehouse begin to realize this.

    And the fact that we have one hell of a mean homophobic, ignorant, hate-filled Bishop who loves nothing more than to shove his rhetoric into the faces of 50,000 gay and lesbian Rhode Islanders is completely unconscionable.

    The King James version of the bible has 31,103 verses, and only 7 pertain to homosexuality. Four were SUPPOSEDLY written by Moses in Levitical Law, and the remaining three were inspired by Moses, and found in Paul’s letters to a church in Corinth, and letters to Timothy.

    Jesus Christ — and GOD, ABSOLUTELY NEVER, NEVER, NEVER SAID ANYTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY, AND for anyone to suggest otherwise is a disingenuous LIAR!

    I couldn’t be more fed up with bigots and homophobes who use the Bible as a weapon to promote hatred and ignorance, instead of a tool to promote love, commitment and brotherhood.

  3. Someone replied to me claiming recent events sent marriage equality back 24 years. With all due respect, I don’t have time for this kind of nonsense.

    Marriage Equality will be nationalized in ALL of America within the next 5 years, or less. Nothing has sent MERI back 12 years, other than people quitting and walking out when they don’t get their way!

    We are ALL on the same side, it’s high time we start acting that way!

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