With same-sex marriage legislation headed to the Senate, there's plenty of speculation about where the chamber's 38 members stand on the issue.
One marker: sponsorship of Senator Frank Ciccone's bill, which asks voters to weigh in on a constitutional amendment defining marriage as "a lawful union between one man and one woman." Among the co-sponsors: David Bates, a Barrington Republican who serves as the minority whip.
I called Bates and asked we should read his sponsorship of the bill, anathema to same-sex marriage advocates, as a sign of his opposition to gay nuptials. No, he said, adding that he was under the impression Ciccone's ballot measure would give voters an opportunity to approve same-sex marriage.
When I told him that it would not, he indicated he could support a referendum that does, in fact, give voters that opportunity.
Gay marriage advocates, for their part, have rejected the idea of a referendum and are calling on the Senate to approve the same-sex nuptials legislation the House passed 51-19 last week. Bates declined to endorse or reject the legislation and said he would not declare a position on gay marriage, either way, until a bill reached the Senate floor.
He did say he would "consider" a bill that provided enough safeguards for religiously affiliated institutions. Some opponents of gay marriage have suggested the House bill doesn't go far enough in this regard.
So, where does Bates stand in the end? It's tough to say. But his case, if nothing else, demonstrates the hazards of reading the tea leaves.