House Passes Same Sex Marriage Without Woonsocket Reps' Support

Rep. Stephen Casey (D-Dist.50) says constituents asked him to vote against the bill.


In a 51-19 vote, the Rhode Island House of Representatives approved a bill allowing same-sex marriage Thursday afternoon, without Woonsocket's support.

Representatives Stephen M. Casey (D – Dist. 50, Woonsocket), Lisa Baldelli Hunt (D – Dist. 49, Woonsocket) and Robert D. Phillips (D – Dist. 51, Woonsocket) all voted against the measure.

For Casey, the vote, heralded as an historic step toward equity for same-sex couples, was his first as a freshman member of the House. He said his vote against the bill was what the majority of his constituents asked him to do during his campaign, in person, in e-mails and during phone calls. "It came up quite a bit," Casey said.

Casey said he learned during discussions with Hunt and Phillips on the issue that their constituents were also opposed to the measure.

When asked whether he'd have made a different choice if he had only himself to think about, "I'm not sure about that," Casey said, "I would need to still think long and hard. I believe we are in an age where it's important to respect and understand and tolerate all individuals."

Had his constituents asked him to support the measure, Casey said, "I would have voted differently without hesitation."

Phillips also said his vote was based on his constituents' overwhelming opposition to same sex marriage, both when he was first elected and recently. 

When asked how he would have voted personally, "To be honest with you, that's irrelevant," Phillips said, "What I feel personally doesn't matter." It's his job to be committed to what his voters want him to do, he said.

The bill now goes to the state Senate, where leadership has said no action will be taken on it until spring.

“Obviously, this issue is about fairness and allowing all Rhode Islanders to have equal access to the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage, but marriage is about so much more than legal protections," said Rep. Art Handy  (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), the bill's primary sponsor. This was the 11th year Handy had introduced same sex marriage legislation.

"My wife and I have been married since 1997, and as we’ve worked together to raise our son, the value of having a committed, strong family has become more apparent to us over time. All Rhode Islanders deserve to enjoy that security and support, and deserve to have their family recognized as equal to others. It feels good to see how far we’ve come in Rhode Island toward valuing all families, and I know we are close to the day when marriage equality becomes law here."

Gov. Lincoln Chafee was also enthusiastic.

"There are certain legislative votes that can fairly be characterized as “historic.” The Rhode Island House of Representatives’ overwhelming passage of marriage equality legislation is one such vote," he said in a statement. 

Both Chafee and Handy noted that the bill faces challenges in the Senate. Senate President Theresa Paiva Weed opposes same sex marriage, as does Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the bill goes next.

Chafee concluded, "Although this vote is indeed historic, there is still a long way to go. Now that the House has swiftly acted, I urge Senate leadership to 'call the roll' – for our economy, for our gay and lesbian friends and neighbors, and for history."

The bill reiterates the right of religious institutions to set their own guidelines for marriage eligibility within their faith.

Rhode Island is the only New England state that does not allow same-sex marriage. Currently nine states and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex couples to marry. 

Govstench January 26, 2013 at 12:48 PM
McCaffrey will kill this bill. Weed has no interest in this either.
Uh oh woonsocket January 26, 2013 at 01:20 PM
Gordon Fox, the openly gay speaker of the house, endorsed Mr Casey. Im sure they had discussions prior to the endorsement. This vote is very important to Mr Fox. The delegation stated that they voted with regard to the will of the constituents, and for that I applaud them, BUT, I'm pretty sure they just shot themselves in the foot. Do you think any legislative assistance is coming our way? Gordon already doesn't like Lisa and now Steve took a swipe at him. It's going to be a long session for our delegation.
Growing more concerned by the day! January 26, 2013 at 01:26 PM
You need to applaud legislators that listen to their constituents and vote based on the will of the people. Our Governor feels that the legislators should disregard the people’s wishes and vote for "historic" purposes. Two thoughts...First, If that's how our politicians feel, we need to get them out of office as soon as possible. Second on the Gay Marriage issue, any publically known gay political member of the house or senate should recuse themselves from any vote on the issue no differently than any other potential conflict of interest vote they would take in the course of normal congressional business. Twitter @RI_Roger
Nelson Aldrich January 26, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Who cares? Rather than push my religious views on someone else,can we please move on to more important matters.Remember,RI's pathetic unemployment rate of 10.2 percent doesn't include people who have given up looking for work.A more realistic number would be around 17 percent. If i never hear anything about this issue again,i'll be ecstatic.I've just about given up "Hope" for this state.
Still Hope January 26, 2013 at 06:32 PM
lol. Making a gay congressperson recuse themselves from a vote on gay rights is like asking those that can't run a mile in under 6 mins from voting on legislature regarding food regulation. Fat people want their sweets and gays want their rights.
made in America January 26, 2013 at 07:30 PM
so, are you saying that any Catholic should reuse themselves from abortion bills because they have a conflict of interest as most American support ROE V Wade. Good!
Carol Ann Ketchum January 26, 2013 at 10:11 PM
I think it is terrible to approve same sex marriages,in any state especially my home state,it sure would not be that way if Marfia was still running the state,god put on earth,Adam and Eve to reproduce not two Adams or two Eve's.they shouldof stayed in closet where they belong,i think it is terrible,they will be cursed by god in future?
Russell Archambault January 26, 2013 at 10:16 PM
The heck with same sex marriage.......I can't even get anyone from the oposite sex to marry me ! Maybe I should reconsider this whole issue.
Russell Archambault January 26, 2013 at 10:22 PM
I applaude our woonsocket members voting against it... what political bull.Woonsocket Reps, save your energy on Rhode Islands real fiscal problems. thanks !
Lotus Lily January 26, 2013 at 10:29 PM
Well I know which 3 members I won't be voting for when their time is up! If you can't adapt and support GLBTQ rights then you don't belong in office! I'm sorry but I find it hard to believe that Woonsocket is full of bigots who would deny others their rights and if that be the case then it's time I find a new place to live because I will not live in a state or city that supports hatred and discrimination! You 3 just lost my vote, my families vote, as well as all my Church member's votes!!!!
gerry January 26, 2013 at 11:22 PM
my guess you already can get married well icant you proubly would feel different it you where gay
gerry January 26, 2013 at 11:26 PM
my guess here is your stight. why dont you let all the stight political members recuse themseves and let just the gay senate members vote that would make things much easier for me and my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.
gerry January 26, 2013 at 11:30 PM
as for mr casey i'm sorry he has to tolerate his gay constituents
Fed-Up Taxpayer January 27, 2013 at 02:04 AM
Keep wasting time with bovine excremit and deal with real issues such as fiscal matters, unemployment issues, helping small businesses survive in this pro-union / anti-business state. The General Assembly is like the Titanic....The ship is sinking and all they are doing is re-arranging the deck chairs.
Steve January 27, 2013 at 09:45 PM
Next on the list is stopping drivers from driving with a pet on their lap. Hard hitting issues that hit the mark in RI!!!!!!
Patrick Reilly January 27, 2013 at 10:15 PM
I'm glad that the bill was passed; not passing this same-sex marriage bill would simply be impeding are rights further. I don't see any reason the Woonsocket representatives would want to go against this bill.
Patrick Reilly January 27, 2013 at 10:17 PM
Religion out of politics.
Arthur Christopher Schaper January 27, 2013 at 10:45 PM
I wish that the leaders in Rhode Island would listen to their constituents more often, like cutting the spending, lowering the taxes, and getting the government out of their lives altogether.
Silence Dogood January 31, 2013 at 03:23 AM
And may I quote "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Let God judge us, you don't need to. It is quite unfortunate that your parents could not teach you if you have nothing to say then to say nothing at all. I bet gay parents could teach their children that. With intolerant statements as the ones above, you are perpetuating hate. Do you know how many people have committed suicide because they cannot be who they are, because of insignificant people such as yourself who feel the need to add your 2 cents in? I actually feel bad for you, times are changing, get with it or move.
Silence Dogood January 31, 2013 at 03:24 AM
This is a real problem to people who are not allotted their rights.
Silence Dogood January 31, 2013 at 03:28 AM
All 3 are cowards. Can you imagine they would feel the need to vote against giving the chance to make someone happy. I will do everything within my power to make sure that my rep, Lisa Baldelli Hunt, who I have known my whole life, does not get elected EVER again. I am so hurt that she feels so entitled as to say no to the happiness of another human being. Enough is enough. Lets get real politicians in there, these are jokes. WILL NEVER GET MY VOTE.


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