Marriage Victories in Rhode Island, France; Action Pending in Illinois, Delaware, UK

Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon D. Fox. | RI DEMOCRATS

Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon D. Fox. | RI DEMOCRATS

The Rhode Island State Senate has cleared away the last major hurdle to that state becoming the 10th in the nation to allow same-sex couples to marry.

In a 26-12 vote on April 24, the Senate approved a version of marriage equality legislation somewhat different than the one adopted earlier this year by the House of Representatives by a 51-19 vote. The House Judiciary Committee will take up the Senate bill on April 30, according to the Providence Journal.

Governor Lincoln Chafee, an Independent, has pledged to sign the legislation once it is finalized.

The Senate measure was sponsored by out lesbian Senator Donna Nesselbush, a Pawtucket Democrat. The effort in the House is led by out gay Speaker Gordon D. Fox, a Democrat from Providence.

Rhode Island would join all five other New England states, New York, Maryland, Iowa, and Washington, as well as Washington, DC, in legalizing gay marriage.

In Illinois, the State Senate approved a marriage equality bill on February 14 by a 34-21 vote. Advocates continue to work on identifying a majority in the State House, where Democrats hold a veto-proof majority. Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, is committed to signing the law if it is placed before him.

On April 23, Illinois Unites, a coalition of groups working to enact the marriage equality legislation, announced that Representative Ken Dunkin, a Chicago Democrat who heads the Legislative Black Caucus, has endorsed the bill.

“For me, this is about equality and equal treatment under the law,” Dunkin said in a release from the group. “I have always believed that discrimination is wrong, no matter whom it targets.”

Supporters of gay marriage in Illinois have rolled out an impressive array of prominent residents endorsing marriage equality, including Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, the 82-year-old retired baseball player who is a Chicago icon.

On April 23, the Delaware House of Representatives passed a marriage equality bill by a 23-18 margin. The measure now goes to the Senate. Jack Markell, the state's Democratic governor, supports the measure. Like Illinois and Rhode Island, Delaware currently has civil union legislation.

On April 23, the French National Assembly, the parliament’s lower house, gave final approval to marriage equality legislation in a 331-225 vote. That action followed Senate approval by two weeks and made way for pro forma review by the Constitutional Council and signature by President François Hollande.

The legislative debate has spawned huge protests against the measure that have pulled hundreds of thousands into the streets in major French cities. LGBT rights advocates have pointed to an upsurge in anti-gay violence as well.

France is the world’s 14thnation to give gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. Within the past several weeks, New Zealand and Uruguay have also adopted marriage equality laws.

Legislation approving gay marriage, which has the support of Britain's Tory prime minister, David Cameron, was approved in the House of Commons in February but awaits action by the House of Lords.

In Colombia, however, the Senate decisively beat back a same-sex marriage law, in a 51-16 vote on April 24. According to Andres Duque, who blogs at Blabbeando, the Colombian government is under order from that nation’s highest court to grant same-sex couples all the rights or benefits of marriage, with or without the name, by this summer.