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UPDATE: Today is a big day for marriage equality: three votes to watch

Marriage equality

Updates at bottom of post

By Jacob Combs

Today is going to be a busy news day for marriage equality, with a final vote in the French National Assembly, a major committee vote in Rhode Island, and the first full chamber vote in Delaware.  Here’s a brief look at the status of each vote–check back tomorrow throughout the day for updates!

In France, the National Assembly will hold a final vote on a proposed marriage equality bill that was approved by the Senate earlier this month.  The National Assembly already voted in favor of the bill by a 100-vote margin in February; today’s vote is largely a formality that will be conducted with no further debate.  The bill is expected to receive final approval from the National Assembly.  Opponents of marriage equality took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to demonstrate against the bill, and France has experienced violence in the last few weeks over the question of equal rights for same-sex couples: riot police tear-gassed an anti-equality march and skinheads attacked a gay bar in Lille, saying that they had “come to beat up gays.”

In Rhode Island, Senate Bill 38 faces what it likely to be the most significant vote on its way to becoming law in the all-important Senate Judiciary Committee.  The Rhode Island House voted to approve the legislation by a wide margin in January.  The bill is widely believed to have the votes necessary to pass the state Senate, and Gov. Lincoln Chaffee has said he will sign it into law.

Today’s vote in the judiciary committee, whose 10 members are roughly evenly divided on the issue of marriage equality and considered the bill in a half day-long session late last month, is the last major obstacle the legislation will likely face.  Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, the coalition group spearheading the push to approve SB38, stepped up its advocacy efforts last weekend, knocking on doors and urging constituents to contact their lawmakers.  During today’s vote, which will take place at 3 p.m. Eastern time, the committee will consider both SB38 and another bill that would put the issue to a popular referendum next year.  Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, an opponent of marriage equality, has said that she expects a full floor vote on the bill by the end of the month.

This morning, the Rhode Island Senate Republican caucus announced in a press release that all five of its members support marriage equality.  “Today we join the 209 other Republican state legislators across America who have stood up for the freedom to marry,” the release read.  “As a united Senate Republican Caucus, we are proud to add our voices to reaffirm the principles of freedom and equality under the law.” As the caucus’s press release pointed out, Rhode Island’s Senate Republicans are the first caucus of either party in any legislature to unanimously support marriage equality.  Sen. Dawson Hodgson, the only Republican member of the judiciary committee, had already told the Providence Journal he would vote yes on SB38.  Another Republican senator, Nick Kettle, announced last month that he would vote yes on the bill if it were considered by the full Senate.

Delaware’s marriage equality bill, HB75, is moving speedily forward: the legislation was introduced less than two weeks ago and received a committee hearing just last Wednesday, in which it was approved 4-1.  Today, HB75 will receive a vote from the full House floor, where it will need the support of 21 of the chamber’s 41 members to pass.  The bill currently has one Republican co-sponsor, Rep. Mike Ramone.

We’ll tweet out breaking news updates via our Twitter handle, @EqualityOnTrial, as soon as the votes are held, and we’ll update with news throughout the day.

One last piece of exciting marriage equality news: late last night, the Nevada Senate voted 12-9 to advance a ‘repeal and replace’ constitutional amendment that would remove a marriage equality ban from the state constitution and replace it with inclusive marriage language.  The bill, SJR13, was advanced by a Senate committee on a 3-2 vote a few weeks ago.  One Republican, Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, voted along with the chamber’s Democrats–some of them members of the Mormon faith–and another lawmaker, Kelvin Atkinson, came out to his colleagues during an emotional, hour-long debate.

The bill now heads to the Democrat-controlled Assembly, where it will likely pass given Democrats’ 27-15 seat advantage in the chamber.  If it is approved by the Assembly, the bill will go before both houses again in the 2015 legislative session, and would then be put on the ballot for the 2016 election.

UPDATE 1 (11:15 a.m. Eastern): As expected, the French National Assembly gave the marriage equality bill final approval, by a vote of 331-225.  The legislation will now likely be considered by the Constitutional Council, whose judges would have a month to declare any constitutional irregularities in the bill.  If the council found nothing wrong with the bill (which equal marriage proponents do not expect it would), President François Hollande would sign it into law and marriages could begin in June.

UPDATE 2 (12:00 p.m. Eastern): As mentioned in the comments, the full Democratic caucus of the Nevada Senate approved the ‘repeal and replace’ bill during yesterday’s vote.  There are hairs to be split about whether the Nevada Democrats or Rhode Island Republicans were the first unanimous caucus to support marriage equality, but it’s safe to say that both caucuses are making history!

UPDATE 3 (1:05 p.m. Eastern): According Michael Lavers of the Washington Blade, a vote in the Delaware House is likely to take place after 3 p.m. Eastern time.  An audio live stream of the vote will be available at

UPDATE 4 (2:10 p.m. Eastern): Thanks to F Young for pointing out in the comments that the Colombian Senate is likely to take up a marriage equality bill today, although it is not expected to pass.

UPDATE 5 (3:15 p.m. Eastern): A big win as Sen. Ciccone’s bill to put marriage equality on the ballot is rejected by the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee.

UPDATE 6 (3:20 p.m. Eastern): And here it is.  SB38 passes the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee and will go on for a full floor vote.  This is huge–today’s vote was probably the biggest hurdle left standing in the bill’s way.  Voting yes were Senators Archambault, Conley, Hodgson, Raptakis, Jabour, Lynch and Nesselbush.

UPDATE 7 (3:23 p.m. Eastern): As Rhode Island political reporter Ted Nesi pointed out on Twitter, if SB38 is approved by the full Senate (which advocates are optimistic it will), the amended bill will go back to the house, which has already passed the legislation, for another committee and floor vote before it goes to Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who has said he will sign it.

UPDATE 8 (4:15 p.m. Eastern): Michael Lavers of the Washington Blade reports on Twitter, per a Rhode Island Senate spokesperson, that SB38 will receive a full floor vote tomorrow.

UPDATE 9 (6:00 p.m. Eastern): And now Delaware’s results come in, where the House passed a marriage equality bill 23-18!

UPDATE 10 (10:10 a.m. Eastern, 4/24): According to Gay Star News, the Colombian Senate has postponed a vote on a proposed marriage equality bill for the second time until later today (Wednesday) to allow for further debate.

UPDATE 11 (5:30 p.m. Eastern, 4/24): The Washington Blade reports that the Colombian Senate has rejected a marriage equality bill it was considering.  Colombia’s Constitutional Court had given the legislature a June 20 deadline to provide equal rights to same-sex couples.  Since the legislature will miss that deadline, couples will most likely have to go back to court next month before Colombia will have full marriage equality.


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