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Vermont Gov. Shumlin campaigns in R.I. for gay marriage

March 31, 2011

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin came to Rhode Island today to support the campaign to bring gay marriage to the Ocean State.

Shumlin, a Democrat, spoke to General Assembly leaders privately and met with Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who is also a gay marriage supporter. Shumlin also held a news conference where he told reporters that he considers gay marriage a matter of conscience.

“It is truly a pleasure to be in Rhode Island to share Vermont’s experience with marriage equality,’’ said Shumlin. `As a former senator and someone who was deeply involved in a similar debate in my state, I understand the uncertain feelings that some members of the Rhode Island General Assembly may be feeling right now.

“I am here to tell  our story and let those members know that Vermont is a better and more just place for having made full marriage equality the law,’’ said Shumlin.

Gay marriage is a civil rights issue, Shumlin said, that is comparable to the suffrage movement that won the vote for women and the black civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Vermont was the first state to approve gay civil unions in 2000. The Vermont legislature in 2009 adopted full gay marriage rights.

About 50 protesters stood in the State House corridor outside the State Room where Shumlin held his joint news conference with Chafee.

They held signs that said “marriage is between one man and one woman.’’ Protest leaders said they were from the New Life Worship Center in Smithfield and the Hipanic Ministerial Alliance.

But Shumlin said Rhode Islanders should know thatr the “sky isn’t going to fall” if the state adopts gay marriage. Four other New England states — Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut – recognize gay marriage.

In Rhode Island, Chafee has been a strong supporter of gay marriage. The primary opposition has come from religious groups, especially Bishop Thomas Tobin, Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence.

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