Same-Sex Marriage Hearing Lasts Into Early Morning
Several Johnston residents came out in favor of same-sex marriage while Fr. Healey of OLM came out against.
By midnight Thursday, people were still testifying for and against the same-sex marriage legislation (S-38) before the state Senate Judiciary Committee. More than 600 people signed up to testify and in groups of four they were called up.
Both of East Greenwich's state senators sit on the Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Dawson Hodgson (R-E.G., N.K., S.K., Narr.), early on spoke out in favor of the legislation: "If Rhode Islanders truly believe in family values, we need to value all families."
To the comments from some that the legislation harms marriage, Hodgson said, "No matter what this committee does, it won't touch your marriage. That's one of the nice things about the separation of church and state."
Sen. Lou Raptakis (D-Coventry, E.G., W.W.), who also sits on the committee, made no statements for or against during the hearing.
One of those who spoke for the "sanctity of marriage" and against same-sex marriage was Fr. Bernard Healey, pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Church in East Greenwich. Healey also serves at lobbyist for the Diocese of Providence. He said religious protections would be imperiled by passage of the bill.
Many who testified against the legislation echoed what Sen. Harold Metts (D-Prov.) referred to as the “cosmic battle between God and Satan.”
Pastor Jay Stirnemann of Tiverton said, "I speak for God. I am oppose to marriage between people of the same sex.... God established marriage, not you or me. The state has no right to define marriage."
Directing his conclusion to Sen. Donna Nesselbush (D-Pawt.), the main sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, Stirnemann said, "There will be serious consequences Sen. Nesselbush, if this passes. God watches."
Those voices were strongly supported by Sen. Harold Metts (D-Prov.), who spoke several times over the course of the evening against the bill, invoking God and the bible frequently.
Sen. Steve Archambault (D-Smithfield, Johnston, N. Prov.) also spoke frequently to those testifying, but in support of the bill.
"I don’t know how any man can stand before another man and say they know what the word of God is," Archambault said, refering to what he said was the condemning language of some of those who testified against the legislation.
Tony and Sylvia DeLuca of Saunderstown, married 53 years, testified in favor of the same-sex marriage bill, Tony noting telling about their daughter, Louisa, who is gay.
“Like any father, I just want to walk my little girl down the aisle,” he said.
Lise Iwon of South Kingstown spoke about her partner of 32 years, Peg Laurence, who died a year ago.
"Peg and I adored each other. Friends would say they envied us," she said. "Peg was and I am a passionate advocate for fairness."
Caroline Stouffer of East Greenwich got her chance to testify at 11:30 p.m., where she voiced her support of same-sex marriage. "Gay folks look just like us ... I don't think we should be writing discrimination into any of our laws."
By 12:15 a.m. Friday, seven of the ten senators on the judiciary committee were still listening to testimony, with dozens of names still on the list to testify.