May 2, 2013
My fellow Rhode Islanders,
Today, Rhode Island is making history.
We are living up to the ideals of our founders who believed so deeply in the words etched behind me in marble: "to hold forth a lively experiment, that a most flourishing civil state may stand and best be maintained..."
In January 2011, I stood before you in the same spot where I stand today.
I said then: "When marriage equality is the law in Rhode Island, we honor our forefathers who risked their lives and fortune in the pursuit of human equality."
I believe those words just as much today as I did then, and I am proud and humbled to make the Marriage Equality Act the law of the land in Rhode Island.
We would not be where we are today without the Rhode Islanders who for decades have fought for tolerance and freedom over discrimination and division.
People such as David Cicilline, Gordon Fox, Rhoda Perry, Frank Ferri, Donna Nesselbush, Michael Pisaturo, Myrth York, Josh Miller, Art Handy, and Sue Sosnowski. I am so pleased that many of them are here celebrating with us this evening. Sadly, some of them, such as the late Julie Pell and June Gibbs, are not. But they are certainly here in spirit.
This legislation also would not have passed without the extraordinary efforts of Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, with Ray Sullivan at the helm. The doors that were knocked on, the conversations that took place, the calls that were made to legislators - this is what pushed us over the finish line. I want to thank all of the staff, supporters, and volunteers for their hard work and commitment to a worthy cause.
I also want to commend Speaker Fox, who has been a leader in this struggle for many years, for his decision to call a House vote in January. That vote was 51-19. And I give great credit to Senate President Paiva Weed for calling the roll and allowing her members to vote their conscience. That tally was 26-12.
It is fitting that we are gathered today at our marvelous State House. This gorgeous building, towering majestically over the capital city, is a reminder of the extraordinary wealth that once flowed through Rhode Island.
My fellow Rhode Islanders, we can have that prosperity again - through growing our existing companies and the new economy of high-tech start-ups, the creative sector, and 'the meds and the eds.' The talented workers who are driving this economy want to live in a place that reflects their values. And now, Rhode Island does.
In closing, I want to say a few words to our many, many LGBT family members, friends, and neighbors all across Rhode Island. I know that you have been waiting for this day to come. I know that you have loved ones who dreamed this would happen, but did not live to see it. But I am proud to say that now, at long last, you are free to marry the person you love.