MERI Blog

Updates, news, action alerts and events from Marriage Equality Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Faith Leaders Reaffirm Commitment to Marriage Equality

PROVIDENCE - Renewing a long-standing commitment to advocate for all families under their pastoral care, a broad and growing coalition representing more than a dozen welcoming and affirming faith denominations announced its commitment today to continue working to pass marriage equality legislation in Rhode Island.

“The Bible teaches us that we are all God’s children - created in His image - with an obligation to love and serve one another in this world. It is in that spirit of faith and tolerance that I’m proud to announce that a coalition of more than 100 clergy, representing 13 different denominations, is being engaged to help lead the fight to win marriage equality,“ said Rev. Gene Dyszlewski, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and chair of the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality.

Dyszlewski said his group will focus on “building an an active grassroots network of Rhode Islanders who believe that all loving, committed couples should be recognized, respected and treated equally under the law.“

“No one church or leader represents all persons of faith, and it’s important to recognize that the legislation currently before the General Assembly speaks specifically to civil marriage. Faith organizations that do not affirm same-sex relationships will in no way be required to do so when this bill becomes law. However, for those of us who do lead welcoming and affirming faiths, it will finally remove a long-standing obstacle to our pastoral care - and allow us to minister equally to all families in our community,“ said Dyszlewski.

“Jesus welcomed all to His table and so, as faith leaders for equality, we hope to walk on the path He set for us - living by His example - and affirming his commitment to tolerance and justice,“ Dyszlewski said.

It’s go time!

Here we go!

Moments ago, Representative Art Handy and Senator Donna Nesselbush introduced legislation that will finally extend marriage to same-sex couples here in Rhode Island.

House leadership has committed to voting by the end of the month, which means we only have a matter of days to build support and ensure that the marriage bill passes.

We know exactly what it will take to pass marriage legislation this year: real Rhode Islanders picking up the phone, sending emails, and having face-to-face conversations with state legislators about why marriage matters to families in our state.

2013 can be the year we win marriage in Rhode Island, but only if supporters across the state take action now. Click here to email your legislators and urge them to support the freedom to marry.

We’re on the cusp of making history in the Ocean State, but you and I both know that we didn’t get here overnight. Years of grassroots advocacy and dedication from supporters like you have brought us to the tipping point.

And when I think about thousands of same-sex couples finally having the freedom to marry this year in the state that they call home, I’m more committed than ever to doing whatever it takes to win in 2013.

The first, most crucial step towards winning is making sure that state legislators hear from marriage supporters right now.

Send a message to your state legislators now and ask them to vote in favor of the freedom to marry.

We have a lot of work ahead of us this legislative session, but with thousands of MERI supporters owning a piece of this campaign, I know we can win this.
Thanks for all you’re doing,

Ray Sullivan
Campaign Director

P.S. Grassroots advocacy is the backbone of our campaign to win marriage equality. Email to sign up for a phone bank shift next week to help connect pro-marriage Rhode Islanders with their state legislators.

Resolved to win

All of us at MERI have just one New Year’s resolution: Do whatever it takes to pass marriage equality in 2013.

Here’s what we know as of today: The Speaker of the House has promised to move this important civil rights legislation forward in the next few weeks, and the Senate President has committed to allowing a first-ever committee vote. We’re getting closer, but there’s a lot of hard work that needs to get done if we’re finally going win this thing.

We also know that our opponents, the so-called National Organization for Mariage, have their top hired gun, Frank Schubert, ready to drop into Rhode Island to derail all the mometum you’ve worked to build in this last year. Don’t let him, fight back against their anti-gay agenda with a tax-deductable year end contribution of just $20.13 right now.

In 2012, we made ground-shifting progress. We worked with the Governor to enact an executive order recognizing out-of-state marriages and our PAC made sure that this next General Assembly will include more pro-equality legislators than ever before.

But that’s not enough. We’re in this to win marriage equality and nothing less - with your help, we will.

Thanks for all you’ve done in this last year. On behalf of all of us, have a safe, healthy and happy new year!

Statement from MERI on Senate committee plans to vote on marriage equality

PROVIDENCE - Marriage Equality Rhode Island Campaign Director Ray Sullivan issued the following statement today after Sen. President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee would hold a vote on marriage equality in 2013, if the House passes the bill, as expected:

“We are both excited and grateful that the Senate President has decided to schedule a Judiciary Committee vote on marriage equality in 2013, following the House’s expected passage of this historic civil rights legislation. We will continue to actively reach out to legislators on both sides of the aisle and grow our broad coalition of supporters in the House and Senate. Today’s news is another positive step in the right direction, but we won’t stop until the work of winning equal rights and recognition under the law for all loving, committed couples is complete, with legislation signed into law by Governor Chafee.“

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Thankful

As we come together with loved ones this week to celebrate Thanksgiving, I wanted to take a minute to tell you how grateful all of us at MERI are to count you as a friend and supporter.

Thanks to you and many others, it’s been a remarkable year for the pro-equality movement, and 2013 is shaping up to be even better. With your help, we made a lot of history in these last 12 months:

• Winning Sen. Jack Reed’s support for the Respect for Marriage Act, important legislation that will finally put an end to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, and eliminate the federal ban on equal recognition for same-sex couples.

• Advocating with LGBTQ and equal rights advocates to add crimes against transgender individuals to Rhode Island’s hate crimes reporting law.

• Working with Gov. Chafee for more than six months and standing by his side as he signed the country’s first executive order directing state departments and agencies to recognize same-sex marriages.

• Fighting back at the ballot box with our political action committee to recruit, train and support an unprecedented number of candidates to the General Assembly. Thanks to hundreds of volunteers who knocked on countless doors and made thousands of phone calls, there will be more pro-equality state representatives and senators in 2013 than at any other point in history!

All these milestones have proven to the rest of the world what you and I already know: When we work hard and work together, we win. So again, thanks for all you’ve done and will continue to do to support the fight for equal rights in Rhode Island.

On behalf of our board, staff, interns, and great volunteers, have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.

Providence Journal Editorial Board reaffirms support for Marriage Equality

The Providence Journal offers another editorial on its opinion pages today in support of marriage equality that I though was worth sharing. On behalf of all of us at MERI, have a very Happy Thanksgiving! - Ray

Gay rights advance

The November elections yielded remarkable advances for gay rights. After years of uninterrupted votes against same-sex marriage (32 in all), advocates scored victories in four states. Maine, Maryland and Washington all approved initiatives to allow same-sex marriage. And Minnesotans beat back a constitutional amendment to ban it.

With various cases lined up for U.S. Supreme Court review, and several new state efforts planned, it appears that broader nationwide acceptance is only a matter of time.

Gay candidates for office also made gains this month. In Wisconsin, Democrat Tammy Baldwin was elected to the U.S. Senate. Ms. Baldwin, who has served seven terms in the House, will become the Senate’s first openly gay member. In Colorado, where Democrats regained control of the House, Rep. Mark Ferrandino was elected that body’s first openly gay speaker. (And Rhode Island’s openly gay speaker, Gordon Fox, and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, also gay, held onto their seats despite vigorous opposition.)

Much of advocates’ success came from dogged grass-roots campaigning. In Maine, where same-sex marriage was rejected just three years ago, volunteers spent hours going door to door. Along with personalizing and improving their message, advocates held a large spending advantage over their opponents.
As recently as the last presidential election, few would have predicted such rapid change. Nine states and Washington, D.C., now authorize same-sex marriage, and several more (possibly including Rhode Island) are leaning in that direction. In addition, public opinion has steadily altered. Today, roughly 50 percent of Americans favor same-sex marriage.

Surveys repeatedly show the highest rates of acceptance among young people. But Americans’ sense of fairness is also in evidence. Time after time in our history, appeals for equality have prevailed, if sometimes despite grudging and even violent resistance. The time has come to expand the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex ones.

“Bring it”

Get ready, we’re gonna get hit. 

A recent New York Times story confirmed what we’ve been predicting for months: The chief strategist and leader of the national anti-equality effort has his sights fixed on Rhode Island in 2013. 

“Frank Schubert, a former corporate public relations executive, ran the $40 million, come-from-behind push for Proposition 8 in California in 2008. He went on to mount successful campaigns to defeat same-sex marriage in Maine and North Carolina. Now, with marriage initiatives on the ballot in Maryland, Minnesota, Washington State and Maine, Mr. Schubert is the chief strategist in all four at once…

Mr. Schubert already has his eye on the next year or two, when he sees marriage battles brewing in Rhode Island, New Jersey and several other states.“

Frank Schubert is well-known for running some of the most divisive, misleading and hurtful campaigns this country has ever seen. And now he’s coming to our state to spend untold amounts of money pushing the anti-gay agenda of the so-called National Organization for Marriage.

Can you donate just $6.00 right now to make Rhode Island the sixth New England state to win marriage equality? We’re not a big money organization, and maybe we never will be, but with your help we can beat back Frank Schubert’s anti-gay rhetoric. 

We don’t run from bullies in Rhode Island, we stand our ground and dig in. If Frank Schubert wants to pick a fight in our backyard, I say “bring it.“

What do you say, can you chip in $6 now? It may not seem like much, but when we all work together, we can accomplish big things. 

Coming Out for Equality

Today is National Coming Out Day, a time when we celebrate coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or an ally. It’s an important opportunity to remind our family and friends that building and maintaining a safe society where LGBTQ people can live truthfully and openly requires constant vigilance.

In less than a month Rhode Islanders will go to the polls to decide who will represent them in the General Assembly. Shame on us if we don’t stand up, raise our voices and work to elect pro-equality candidates who represent the interests of all families. 

We’re closer than ever to having the votes needed to finally pass marriage equality, and so today, I’m asking you to do one thing: Will you commit to coming out to just one event to help elect pro-equality candidates before Election Day?

If you’ve never been involved with a campaign before, that’s great, around here we recognize that history is made by the first-timers. Your efforts on the phone or at the door could make the difference in whether or not we elect pro-equality majorities in the House and Senate. 

So whether you’re an LGBTQ Rhode Islander or straight ally, there couldn’t be a more important time to join the effort to encourage our elected leaders to come out for equality. Please, take a moment to fill out this volunteer form so we can schedule a convenient time for you to be part of this historic civil rights effort

Thanks for all you do. 

Ray

We’re winning

Last night, WPRI TV released a new poll confirming what we already knew: An overwhelming and clear majority of Rhode Islanders support marriage equality.

This poll not only validates the huge shift in momentum we’ve seen on the ground in the last year, but more importanly, it should be a wake up call to every politician who continues to oppose equal rights. With just about three months until the General Assembly returns to session, it’s obvious that we’ve got momentum on our side. That’s good news.

But now we can expect our opponents, the so-called National Organization for Marriage, will dump a ton of money and resources into Rhode Island to push their anti-equality agenda. Can you help MERI fight back by making a contribution of $25 or $50 right now?

We’re never going to be a big-money organization like NOM, but I don’t think we need to be. With your help we can raise the resources we need to stay in the fight for equal rights for all loving, committed couples in Rhode Island.

This isn’t just a fight worth fighting, it’s a fight we need to win. Together we can get it done.

New poll shows RI voters support Marriage Equality by wide margin

PROVIDENCE - A new poll from WPRI TV’s veteran analyst Joe Fleming tonight showed that an overwhelming majority of Rhode Islanders now support marriage equality and equal rights for same-sex couples in loving, committed relationships. The poll, which surveyed 501 likely voters from September 26-29 showed that 56 percent now support marriage equality, while only 36 percent oppose.

“This poll affirms the growing momentum we’ve seen in Rhode Island for marriage equality over the last two years and sends a clear signal that a majority of voters believe all families should be recognized, respected and treated equally under the law,“ said MERI Campaign Director Ray Sullivan.

The Channel 12 poll is the most recent public, non-partisan survey to gauge Rhode Island opinion on this important civil rights issue since last February, when Public Policy Polling found marriage equality supporters leading opponents by nine points (50-41%).

“Every day more Rhode Islanders are raising a voice in support of marriage equality and this poll should serve as a wakeup call to those politicians who continue to oppose equal rights. We look forward to working with legislators from both sides of the aisle when the General Assembly returns in January to finally make Rhode Island a state that honors the commitments and values the worth of all families,“ Sullivan said.

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