When the East Providence Town Council this week unanimously approved a resolution in support of state legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage, it got the play of a minor story. And it was, no doubt, just a small part of a broader push to pass a gay nuptials law in Rhode Island.
But the vote, viewed another way, was of significance.
First, it spoke to a marriage equality movement that has built a systematic, ground-up effort to pressure the General Assembly into action: every church, town council, and mayoral endorsement valued. Of course, Rhode Island's gay nuptials movement has significant natural momentum, given the shift in the national culture. But no small part of that momentum has been constructed.
The East Providence vote, though, also served a targeted political purpose. State Senator Bill Conley (D-East Providence) - a member of the East Providence Town Council not long ago - is an important swing vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill. And State Senator Daniel DaPonte (D-East Providence) is an important target for same-sex marriage advocates as well. A unanimous vote by the town council provides a bit of political cover for both men, should they decide to support the bill.
Will that cover, alone, be enough to sway the senators? Probably not. But in this tight fight, every bit matters.