PROVIDENCE — Shortly after East Providence’s William J. Conley Jr. voted in favor of moving Bill S38 on same-sex marriage out of the Judiciary Committee and to a full vote of the Rhode Island Senate, the local legislator provided his reasoning for doing so and also signaled he was likely to support the proposal on the floor.
Tuesday, April 23, Sen. Conley was in the majority of a 7-4 vote affirming the legislation brought to the committee by Sen. Donna Nesselbush. A revised version of S38 authored by Sen. Nesselbush allows for gay couples to marry while also recognizing protections for religious organizations that may oppose the measure.
“I thought that the addition of the religious protections by Sen. Nesselbush to the bill was critical to bringing same-sex marriage to Rhode Island,” Sen. Conley said from the State House Tuesday. “Once that was done, I felt I could support the bill.”
The full Senate will vote on the S38 Wednesday, April 24. The bill is a mirror piece of legislation put forth in the State House of Representatives (H5015), which passed by a 51-19 vote earlier this year. If it passes the Senate, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee has previously stated his intention to sign the bill into law.
Sen. Conley acknowledged he was likely to again vote for the bill when it comes to the Senate floor Wednesday, though he said he wasn’t 100-percent certain.
“I’m going to listen to what my other colleagues have to say, but I am certainly leaning towards supporting marriage equality with a balanced approach with protections for religious beliefs,” Sen. Conley added.
Despite having been pushed and pulled in both directions from those pro and anti the measure, the senator said he appreciated the manner by which same-sex marriage was legislated.
“It’s a been a wonderful learning process. There’s an old saying about politics, about it being like making sausage. Sometimes it’s good to see how the sausage is made,” Sen. Conley said.
“I thought this was a tremendous example of the democratic process,” he continued. “I credit Senate Judiciary Chairman (Michael) McCaffrey. Even though he had different ideas (Sen. McCaffrey voted against the bill in committee.), he gave the bill a full and fair hearing. We were able hear both sides of the argument. We listened to a lot of different ideas. Saw a lot of different analysis. I was very proud to have been a part of it.”