Testimony in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, which was expected to go late into the night, centered on a bill introduced by Sen. Rhoda E. Perry (D-Providence), that would recognize civil marriage between people of identical gender, while leaving religious institutions the right to refuse to participate.
The committee agenda also included bills that would place the question of gay marriage before voters in a referendum, allow domestic unions for same sex couples, and create “reciprocal beneficiary agreements” that would allow two unmarried people ineligible for marriage to obtain certain rights and responsibilities.
As the hearing went late into the night, exchanges between supporters and opponents got heated.
Rep. Frank Ferri (D-Warwick), who is openly gay, admonished a gay marriage opponent sitting nearby who held a large sign that read “Keep Marriage Holy.”
“Why do you care who I love?” Ferri asked the man. “Shame on you. Shame on you that your God is the God that’s right and mine isn’t. Shame on you for thinking you’re more perfect than I am.”
House leaders also held hearings, in February, and could call a vote as early as next week.