22 HOUSTON VOICE / APRIL 7, 1995
Rhode Island house of representatives passes gay rights bill
By TIM WHITMIRE
FOR THE HOUSTON VOICE
PROVIDENCE, R.I.. Thursday,
March 30 (AP)—The Senate's leading
supporter of legislation extending
civil rights protections to homosexuals is predicting safe passage for the
bill on its 11th trip through the General
"I think that (supporters) were much
more organized this year," Sen. William Eitzpatrick said in explaining the
relatively comfortable 56-41 margin by which the House passed the measure Wednesday.
Similar bills have been passed by the
House and Senate in past years, but never
by both in the same year. The bill was
defeated by a tie vote in the House in 1990,
by a 25-23 vote in the Senate in 1992 and
by a 9-7 vote in the House Judiciary
Committee in 1993.
Fitzpatrick predicted passage by the
Senate, which received the bill minutes
after its approval by the House.
"The Senate passed the bill in 1993 (by
a vote of) 30-17," he said. "The Senate
Fitzpatrick, who is gay, said although
there are 11 new senators this year,
many of them replaced people who voted
against the bill in 1993.
Gov. Lincoln Almond has said he supports the bill, which would add sexual
orientation to the list of factors that
cannot be considered by individuals and institutions offering employment, credit, housing and public
"I feel elation, absolute elation that
the House has done the right thing," said
James Staskavage of the Rhode Island
Alliance for Lesbian and Gay Civil
"I'm delighted," said Rep. David
Cicilline, D-Pro vide nee, who spoke
in favor of the bill before the House Special Legislation Committee and
again on the House floor.
The version of the bill passed included
an amendment removing language that
would have directed the state Department of Elementary and Secondary
Education to prepare an anti-discrimination curriculum for use in
the stale's schools.
The amendment was approved 61-34
despite the opposition of some of the
bill's supporters who objected to
removing the educational requirement.
"(This amendment) is a little like cut
ting out the heart to save the patient,"
said Rep Edith Ajeilo, D-Provi-
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Frank Gas-
chen, D-Cumberland, voted against
the amendment, but acknowledged it
was necessary "as a strictly political
Fitzpatrick said the amendment was
added at the request of Almond's legal
"I have mixed feelings (about the
amendment)," Fitzpatrick said. "But
I can live with it."
Several House members questioned
during floor debate whether the educational language would force schools to
promote homosexuality as part of
teaching them not to discriminate on
the basis of sexual orientation.
Rep. Charles McDevitt, R-Lincoln,
said teaching children not to discriminate against homosexuals would
require teaching them what homosexuality is.
"This seems to be the forcing of one's
sexual philosophy on an organization," McDevitt said. "I don't think I
have to live with people flaunting in
front of me a lifestyle with which I do not
Rep. Harold Metts, D-Providence,
also voted against the bill for religious
"Ladies and gentlemen, there is no
middle ground ... and I want to be on the
Lord's side in this spiritual battle,"
he said. "Deviant sexual behavior
does not qualify as a criteria for defining a minority." "This is the word that I
stand by," Metts said, holding up a
Rep. Jeffrey Teitz, D-Newport, said
the state's colonial origins as a haven
for those suffering from religious discrimination argued in favor of protecting homosexuals from discrimination three centuries later.
"We, as a state made up of immigrants
and the children and grandchildren of
immigrants should be particularly
sensitive to discrimination in our
midst today," Teitz said.
Responding to arguments that discrimination against homosexuals
should not be prohibited because sexual orientation is a personal choice,
Teitz pointed out that religious discrimination is prohibited, even
though "religion for many is a matter of
choice, not birth."
The Senate referred the bill to the Special Legislation Committee.
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