Groups Deliver Hundreds of Signatures Urging Sen. Reed to Co-Sponsor Respect for Marriage Act

10/17/2011

Press Contacts:

Jackie Yodashkin, Freedom to Marry, jackie@freedomtomarry.org, 917-620-4502
Ana Beatriz Cholo, Courage Campaign, anabeatriz@couragecampaign.org, 312-927-4845 
Ray Sullivan, Marriage Equality Rhode Island, rsullivan@marriageequalityri.org, 401-227-0259
Kate Brock, Ocean State Action, kate@oceanstateaction.org, 617-835-4875


(Providence, RI, October 17, 2011) – Today, Freedom to Marry, Courage Campaign, Marriage Equality Rhode Island and Ocean State Action will present Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island with a petition signed by hundreds of Rhode Island residents urging him to join his colleagues in signing onto the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill that would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“Recent census data show that Rhode Island is among the top ten states where gay and lesbian couples choose to build their lives together.  These loving, committed couples and their families are harmed every day by the denial of marriage and by federal discrimination that treats them as strangers in the eyes of the law,” said Marc Solomon, National Campaign Director of Freedom to Marry.  “We hope that Senator Reed will listen to the voices of his constituents and join us in ending federal marriage discrimination.”

The signatures were collected through an online campaign by the four groups.  They represent a variety of constituents from Rhode Island, which passed civil unions in June.  Fewer than two dozen couples have since entered into civil unions in Rhode Island, which already honors the marriages of same-sex couples from other jurisdictions, but leaves these couples without federal protections because of DOMA.  Senator Reed is currently the only member of the Rhode Island Congressional delegation who has yet to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act. However, he stated at the end of September that he would come to a conclusion about the legislation “quickly,” and that he believed it was “a critical issue.”

"Senator Reed said he was listening to the Rhode Island people on this critical issue," said Kate Brock, executive director of Ocean State Action. "Rhode Islanders are speaking. Rhode Islanders believe in equality for our gay and lesbian neighbors and we support an end to this harmful and discriminatory law. We hope Senator Reed will heed the call of his constituents and come down on the side of equality for all Rhode Islanders."

"The National Organization for Marriage in Rhode Island is desperate in their attempt to get anti-equality supporters to persuade Sen. Reed to vote against DOMA repeal," said Rick Jacobs, chair and founder of the 700,000 member Courage Campaign. "We are confident that Sen. Reed will join the rest of his state's Democratic congressional delegation and support our effort to ensure Rhode Islanders are not treated as second-class citizens."

The signatories signed onto a letter that reads:

Thousands of loving same-sex couples in Rhode Island have legally wed or plan to, and are committed  to sharing their lives and building a family together. They need access to the same safety net and security that other families are afforded by the federal government. On behalf of the majority of Rhode Islanders who support the freedom to marry, we respectfully ask that you join your colleague, Senator Whitehouse, in co-sponsoring the Respect for Marriage Act.
 
For the full text of the letter, click here: http://freedomtomarry.org/SenatorReedLetter. The letters were delivered personally on Monday afternoon by several of the couples who participated in the petition.

"A growing majority of Rhode Islanders believe in marriage equality and recognize that it's time to repeal DOMA,” said Ray Sullivan, campaign director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island. “Sen. Reed is well-respected by leaders on both sides of the aisle. His support now for the Respect for Marriage Act would provide significant momentum to the effort to end the government-sanctioned discrimination that thousands of gay and lesbian couples in loving, committed relationships face on a daily basis. We look forward to the day when Sen. Reed will join Sen. Whitehouse, Rep. Langevin and Rep. Cicilline in supporting this important civil rights legislation."

Freedom to Marry and Courage Campaign have been working with other statewide groups in similar efforts as part of a federal campaign to increase the number of sponsors in both the House of Representatives and the Senate for the Respect for Marriage Act. The organizations celebrated a significant victory after Senator Mikulski of Maryland signed on as a co-sponsor of the Act, following a campaign that garnered a petition with 3,000 signatures. There are now a record number of supporters in both the House, where the bill has 128 cosponsors, and in the Senate with 29 cosponsors. (The bill was introduced in March with 108 cosponsors in the House and 18 cosponsors in the Senate.) Currently, the groups are working on another campaign that urges Senator Casey of Pennsylvania to announce his support as well.

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Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage nationwide. We are pursuing our Roadmap to Victory by working to win the freedom to marry in more states, grow the national majority for marriage, and end federal marriage discrimination. We partner with individuals and organizations across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.

Courage Campaign is a multi-issue online organizing network that empowers more than 700,000 grassroots and netroots supporters to work for progressive change and full equality in California and across the country.

Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) is the only grassroots organization in Rhode Island whose mission is solely to achieve LGBTQI equality through policy change and works to secure equal marriage rights for all Rhode Island couples, regardless of sexual orientation or identity.

Ocean State Action is a coalition of community groups, environmental organizations, professional associations, and labor unions who have been fighting for social and economic justice for over two decades.