R.I. Catholics Remain Divided Over Marriage Equality
Marriage equality efforts in the Ocean State received a major boost when Congressman James Langevin announced on March 5 that he now supports allowing same-sex couples to the knot.
Langevin, a staunch Roman Catholic who holds socially conservative positions on abortion and other issues, had previously supported civil unions-but not marriage for same-sex couples.
"Three years ago, I attended the commitment ceremony of a longtime staff member and his partner of nine years," said Langevin in his statement. "Before their friends and family, they professed their love, commitment and respect for each other. Their sentiments were just as moving, heartfelt and sincere as any of the vows I had heard at other weddings, yet I realized that their union would not be treated the same under the law. That difference struck me as fundamentally unjust, and I began to challenge the wisdom of creating separate categories of rights for certain groups of citizens. I began to see that civil unions fell short of the equality I believed that same-sex couples deserved."
The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony for and against a marriage equality bill last month, while the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to conduct a hearing on the same measure on Thursday, March 10.
House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence) said a committee vote could take place this week. Governor Lincoln Chafee has urged lawmakers to support the bill.
"As the General Assembly considers this important topic, I ask lawmakers and all Rhode Islanders to honor our state’s founding principles of tolerance and freedom and to support marriage equality in our state," added Langevin. "It’s time to do the right thing."
LGBT activists quickly praised Langevin for his change of heart.
"I think this is a great development and hope other lawmakers can evolve toward full equality as well," said Wendy Becker of Providence. "My guess is there are many legislators who are privately supporting us but haven’t been ready to take a public position. Hopefully his opinion piece will help them do just that."
The Rev. David Martins of St. Therese Old Catholic Church in Providence, which is affiliated with the North American Catholic Church, also welcomed Langevin’s announcement. "The entire purpose of marriage is to invoke the Holy Spirit on the couple so they can have the grace they need to be faithful to one another, and to strengthen their commitment," he said. "A gay couple needs that as much as any other couple."