Slipping into Marriage

It’s only because I know the dispersal of accountability to be a specialty of Rhode Island politicians that I’m suspicious, but a couple of items related to marriage have caught my attention this week. First is news of legislation to be proposed by House Minority Leader Gordon Fox (D, Providence) making same-sex divorce a reality in Rhode Island:

Following December’s 3-to-2 state Supreme Court decision to ban same-sex divorce in Rhode Island, advocates say it is time to take the issue to the General Assembly.
House Majority Leader Gordon D. Fox will sponsor the bill to be submitted in the coming days.
“I think the divorce [legislation] is a high priority and I’m going to be working with the people from [Marriage Equality RI] and the ACLU. That’s something that should be corrected,” Fox said yesterday. “Obviously there was a Supreme Court decision that I agree with the dissent, but even the majority opinion talked about how it’s a legislative purview, so I think it’s something we should have before the legislature to discuss this year.”

Providence Journal writer Cynthia Needham’s advocacy-cum-reportage clearly frames the divorce bill as part of the movement for same-sex marriage, which makes me wonder about the following part of the house rules bill (PDF) that Dan Yorke has made infamous for a more egregious matter (underlines and strike-throughs denote proposed additions and deletions):

There shall be a consent calendar on which shall be entered such bills and resolutions as the Speaker, the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader or their designees shall agree upon, and shall be proposed to the House by the Majority Leader or the designee of the Majority Leader on each Thursday during the session in the form of a motion to move the consent calendar. The consent calendar shall contain bills for the restoration of corporate charters and bills for the solemnization of marriage (which shall be assigned to the consent calendar immediately upon introduction), and other bills and resolutions which are of a routine or non-controversial nature, whether originating in the House or the Senate, and in no event shall the consent calendar be considered as a substitute for the regular calendar. Matters of substance shall be placed on the regular calendar and be fully debated and considered by the membership according to these rules. No bill or resolution shall be included on the consent calendar on the date the consent calendar is moved unless copies of the consent calendar in the same form as shall be moved form as it is intended to move the same have been made available to the membership no later than two (2) legislative days prior to the day on which the consent calendar shall be proposed to be moved. All bills and resolutions included on the consent calendar shall be made available in printed form and/or electronically to the Majority Leader, the Minority Leader, the State House library and the Clerk of the House at the same time that copies of the consent calendar are made available under this rule. At the request of a member any bill or resolution shall be removed from those included in the motion. All bills and resolutions designated for action on the consent calendar shall be passed on motion without discussion unless, prior to adjournment on the Wednesday preceding such Thursday a member shall have requested at any time prior to the motion for passage, a member requests removal of a bill or resolution from the consent calendar, in which case such bill or resolution shall be so removed and placed on the regular calendar. Any bill or resolution so removed shall be considered as having appeared on the regular calendar for a period of time equivalent to that during which it appeared on the consent calendar.

Unless I’m misconstruing the process, legislators will be able to solemnize (which means “grant,” I believe) marriages on the undebated all-or-nothing consent calendar provided they put forward the proposal before the end of the day Tuesday. The calendar is meant to be for uncontroversial items, but the decisive factor appears to be whether anybody objects, thus moving the item to the regular calendar. In that regard, the new rules cut the window for objections to the end of the session on Wednesday. Come Thursday, the whole calendar must be passed (without discussion) or struck down.
Could it be that the Democrats in the General Assembly are hoping to create an avenue for same-sex marriage without ever having to admit to their constituencies that they have done so?

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16 years ago

Well, this certainly bears further investigation, but it’s probably not as sinister as you suspect.
These special bills for solemnization are fairly common. Usually the person who officiates at a civil ceremony marriage is either a judge or court clerk. These special bills generally grant some other person — usually a state or local official who does not ordinarily have the power — the ability to officiate over a particular marriage (say, between two staff members, or involving a family member).
The couple would still need to get a marriage license under the ordinary statutory provisions, which as we know do not currently authorize same-sex unions.
The provision in question seems designed to streamline special solemnization bills, not to add same-sex marriage. Given the way things work up there, though, it’s certainly wise to keep an eye on this.

Rep Loughlin
Rep Loughlin
16 years ago

Brassband is essentially correct. I would seriously doubt the consent calendar is the means they will use on this or any other controversial issue. Having said that you are wise to look for ulterior motive visa-vi the rules. This is a weak speaker’s attempt to hold on to power.

16 years ago

Justin, your fears about this can only be realized over Murphy’s dead body (and that’s not a sure thing, either).

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