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UPDATED: Gately says he's opposed to gay marriage

After I put this blog post up - declaring Republican state senate candidate Sean Gately a "no" vote on same-sex marriage, Ray Sullivan of Marriage Equality Rhode Island called the candidate. After their conversation, Sullivan tweeted that I may have jumped the gun in declaring Gately a "no."

I was surprised. Gately's position seemed pretty clear to me when we spoke yesterday. He told me he favored full civil rights for gays and lesbians. But he spoke of his Catholic faith and said he did not want to "redefine marriage."

After I saw Sullivan's tweet, I called Gately back. He told me his real concern is that no religiously affiliated organization - or private organization of any kind - should be required to recognize gay marriage.

Same-sex nuptials advocates are more than willing to say that no member of the clergy should be required to perform a gay marriage. But Gately is suggesting something much broader. He says a religiously affiliiated hospital or a private, secular business should not be forced to recognize gay marriage - should be allowed, for instance, to deny health care coverage for a same-sex spouse.

It's hard to imagine gay marriage advocates countenancing such a thing. And if Gately won't back down on this point, then he seems a de facto "no" to me.

But when I spoke to Sullivan, he said he was encouraged by his conversation with Gately. He said he saw some real common ground with a credible candidate who is willing to support gay marriage, with exemptions. And as Gately himself acknowledged, Ray Sullivan is a very persuasive guy. We'll see what happens if Gately gets elected. 

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It looks like same-sex marriage advocates have lost at least one vote in the state senate, which will be ground zero for the gay nuptials fight next year.

Senator Bea Lanzi, a Cranston Democrat whom advocates considered a "yes" vote, is retiring at the end of the year. One of the Democrats who was vying to replace her, Gene Dyszlewsi, was a strong proponent of same-sex marriage. But this week, he lost his Democratic primary tilt with Frank Lombardi, who is opposed to gay nuptials.

Now Sean Gately, the Republican nominee for the seat, tells Not for Nothing he is opposed to gay marriage, too - seemingly shutting down the potential for advocates to hold onto the seat.

That narrows an already narrow path to a pro-gay marriage majority in the chamber.

Gately, whose sister-in-law is in a committed same-sex relationship, says he believes gays and lesbians should have all the same rights as heterosexual couples. He went so far as to say he considers it "disgusting" that civil unions don't afford all the rights of traditional marriage.

That may provide advocates a chance to win over Gately should he land in office. Nothing short of marriage, they could argue, would open the door to full equality for gays and lesbians.

But for now, at least, Gately says he is firmly opposed to "redefining marriage." That makes life a little harder for same-sex marriage advocates trying to get to 19 votes in the 38-member chamber.

About half the senate, at present, is anti-gay marriage, with roughly one-third in favor and the rest in the toss-up category, according to a Phoenix analysis.

Advocates lost all but one of the six most watched senate Democratic primaries this week. But they are banking on a series of pro-gay marriage Democrats to put them over the top in November - taking open seats and toppling Republican incumbents.

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