AP: Majority of RI voters favor gay marriage law

28 May 2009
Associated Press

Poll: Majority of RI voters favor gay marriage law

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A survey released Wednesday shows that more than half of Rhode Island voters favor a law allowing gay marriage, leading advocates to point out to state leadership that it’s what residents want.

A Brown University poll showed 60 percent of registered voters in the state said they would support a law allowing gay couples to marry, and 75 percent said they would support a law allowing civil unions. Thirty-one percent said they would oppose a gay marriage law.

“Even if they’re not hearing constantly from constituents or people they work with about what they feel about marriage equality, it clearly gives the decision-makers something to look at when supporting marriage equality,” said Kathy Kushnir, executive director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island.

While 77 percent of Democrats polled said they would support gay marriage, only 28 percent of Republicans shared that view.

Results also showed younger voters more heavily favored gay marriage. Eighty-seven percent of voters ages 18-29 supported it, as opposed to 32 percent of voters 70 and older.

The poll was conducted May 18-20 with a random sample of 593 registered voters statewide. Overall, the margin of error was plus or minus about 4 percentage points.

Christopher Plante, executive director for the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage, pointed out that polls showed California voters supported same-sex marriage, which they banned in the November election.

“The same-sex marriage movement is about a small minority of people trying to radically alter the historic definition of marriage to suit their lifestyle,” Plante said in a statement.

The push to legalize gay marriage has encountered difficulty in Rhode Island. Almost half of Rhode Islanders identify themselves as Roman Catholic, a larger percentage than any other state, according to a recent survey by Trinity College in Connecticut. Religious leaders have continued to voice opposition to gay marriage.

“Given the intense lobbying efforts by proponents of gay marriage, no one should be surprised by the findings of this particular poll,” the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence said in a written statement. “While there is clearly a lot of work to be done, we will renew our efforts to explain the dignity of marriage as designed by God.”

Bills legalizing gay marriage have been introduced in the Statehouse every year since 1997, but none has been approved by a legislative committee. House Speaker William Murphy and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva-Weed, both Democrats and Catholics, oppose gay marriage, and Republican Gov. Don Carcieri — another Catholic — would likely veto such a measure.

This year, bills are in committee in both the House and Senate, with the House Judiciary Committee recommending the measure be held for further study, effectively killing the bill.

Still, Rep. Frank Ferri, a Warwick Democrat and former chair of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, said the poll shows officials the growing support for gay marriage in Rhode Island.

“Gay marriage is just like any other marriage and the more we talk about it and the more we read about it just reinforces that,” Ferri said.

Four of the other five New England states have legalized gay marriage: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine. New Hampshire lawmakers are working to pass a gay marriage bill that will be signed by the governor.

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