Marriage Roundup: Rhode Island, Hawaii, Colorado and the Supreme Court

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It was a monumental week for equality.

Two states advanced marriage equality bills in their state legislatures, the Centennial State is considering a civil union bill and the mother of all showdowns officially got underway as attorneys filed briefs in the two cases about to be argued before the Supreme Court.

On a vote of 51-19, the Rhode Island House of Representatives, on Thursday, overwhelmingly passed legislation that would allow gay and lesbian couples to walk down the aisle. Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Cranston,) introduced the bill that would remove gender-specific language from state law, defining marriage as the “legally recognized union of two (2) people.”

The battle in Rhode Island isn’t over quite yet however. Many key Senate Democrats oppose the legislation, including Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed of Newport, Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio of Providence and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael McCaffrey of Warwick.

WPRI-TV reports,”it will be at least weeks and possibly months before the Senate takes up the same-sex marriage bill, Paiva Weed told reporters after the House vote when she was asked about it at an economic conference for senators.”

Meanwhile, Hawaiian State Representative Faye P. Hanohano, a Democrat from Puna, introduced legislation that would legalize same sex marriage in her state. House Bill 1109 states its purpose as “to recognize marriages between persons of the same sex in the State of Hawaii. It is the intent of the legislation to extend to same-sex couples the right to marry and to receive all the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage as opposite-sex couples receive under the laws of this State.”

On Top reports that ” Two more bills were filed by Rep. John Mizuno, a Democrat from Kalihi. One seeks a constitutional amendment which would extend marriage to gay and lesbian couples, while the other would put in place an amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples. Mizuno told the AP that he’s opposed to marriage equality but wants voters to decide the issue.”

“A bipartisan group of 15 Hawaii representatives also introduced a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples. A Senate version is sponsored by Senator Mike Gabbard, a Democrat”, reports the magazine.

According to a 2011 poll, 49 percent of Hawaiian voters approve of same-sex marriage.

On Wednesday, A Senate committee  in Colorado passed a bill allowing gay couples to form civil unions in that state. The Reporter-Herold reports,”Mario Nicolais, spokesman for Coloradans for Freedom, a group of Republicans supporting civil unions, cited the movie “Lincoln” and the first Republican president’s quest for liberty. “The so-called homosexual agenda is nothing more than a desire to participate in the American dream the rest of us are already afforded,” he said.

“The outcome of civil unions this session is not in doubt: Democrats control the Senate, House and the governor’s mansion,” reported the paper.

Finally, ABC News reports,”on Tuesday, proponents of Proposition 8 — the controversial California ballot initiative that defines marriage as between a man and a woman — filed their opening briefs with the Supreme Court, urging the justices to reverse a lower court decision that struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage.”

According to BuzzFeed,”the proponents of Proposition 8 argue that there is no historic reason “for invalidating marriage as it has existed in California for virtually all of its history, as it was universally understood throughout this Nation (and the world) until just the last decade, and as it continues to be defined in the overwhelming majority of States and Nations.”

BuzzFeed also reports that,’The House Republican leadership Tuesday filed a brief in the Supreme Court urging the Supreme Court to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act as constitutional, arguing that the Obama administration “abdicated its duty to defend DOMA’s constitutionality” in February 2011 and instead started “attacking” the law in court.”

“The House Republican leaders argue that laws classifying people based on sexual orientation should not be scrutinized more closely by courts, as is done with other types of laws under the Constitution’s equal protection guarantees, because “the histories of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sex, and legitimacy are different,” reports the site.

The court is scheduled to hear arguments in both cases next month.

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