6 R.I. Mayors Join Push For Gay Marriage Bill

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People queue to enter the Supreme Court in Washington on March 25, 2013. The justices will hear arguments on March 26 on California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage and on March 27 on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Five Rhode Island mayors voiced support of the cause. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

People queue to enter the Supreme Court in Washington on March 25, 2013. The justices will hear arguments on March 26 on California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage and on March 27 on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Five Rhode Island mayors voiced support of the cause. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Six Rhode Island mayors called on Rhode Island’s state Senate on Monday to pass legislation allowing gays and lesbians to marry, joining a growing list of those backing the effort to join the rest of New England in allowing same-sex wedlock.

Angel Taveras of Providence, Donald Grebien of Pawtucket, Daniel McKee of Cumberland and James Diossa of Central Falls gathered at Providence City Hall to announce the creation of Mayors for Marriage Equality. Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian and North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi are also members of the group but did not attend Monday’s event.

“I believe this is a critical moment in our history,” Taveras said. “I want my daughter to be able to know her father was on the right side.”

McKee said personal or religious opinions about gay marriage aren’t relevant to whether gay and lesbian couples should be granted the same marriage rights as straight partners.

“I see it as a classic church and state issue,” he said. “When somebody comes to my Town Hall for a marriage license, I don’t ask where they are going to get married.”

A bill to legalize gay marriage passed the Rhode Island House in January, but its fate remains unclear in the Senate, where a vote has yet to be scheduled.

Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee held a nearly 12 hour hearing on the legislation where 650 supporters and opponents signed up to speak. The committee heard testimony but took no action.

Most of the mayors in the coalition are Democrats, though Avedisian is a Republican. The group is the latest group to join the push for gay marriage in Rhode Island. Other groups endorsing the legislation include the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, the Rhode Island AFL-CIO and a group calling itself the Rhode Island Business Leaders for Marriage Equality.

Ray Sullivan, campaign director of Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, said the mayors lend “a tremendous voice” to his side of the debate.

“There is an unrelenting sense of momentum behind the effort,” he said.

Nine states and the District of Columbia now allow gay marriage.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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