PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP/WPRI) - A state lawmaker wants to let voters decide whether to allow same-sex marriage in the state -- and he wants to let religious organizations and businesses refuse to participate in same-sex weddings.
Senator Frank Ciccone introduced legislation yesterday which seeks to place the referendum on the 2014 ballot. Ciccone is a Providence Democrat.
The referendum would allow religious leaders to refuse to perform same-sex weddings and say small businesses like caterers and florists could also decline to provide services to a gay wedding.
Gay marriage supporters including House Speaker Gordon Fox and Gov. Lincoln Chafee oppose efforts to put gay marriage on the ballot, arguing that it's a civil right and shouldn't be subject to popular vote.
Gay marriage legislation has passed the House but not yet received a Senate vote.
The head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, Bishop Thomas Tobin, issued a statement Thursday about the bill. "We will continue to vigorously oppose efforts to redefine the institution of marriage in Rhode Island."
"Nevertheless, the legislation introduced by Senator Ciccone presents an eminently reasonable approach to this divisive issue. It advances the discussion in a positive and democratic way, while at the same time safeguarding the rights of all parties. The citizens of Rhode Island have a right to vote on this crucial issue."
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