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Gay Marriage: Won or Lost this Fall?

Speaker of the House Gordon Fox announced in an interview on WPRI-TV's Newsmakers last week that he would call a vote next year on same-sex marriage.

Last year, of course, Fox declined to bring the measure to the floor - loathe to force House members into a vote on a controversial bill, only to have it die in the state Senate, where Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed is opposed.

With Fox now determined to push the measure through his chamber in early 2013, all eyes are focused on the Senate, where the Catholic Church - a powerful opponent the last time around - will no doubt lobby hard to kill the bill.

But same-sex marriage proponents may have an opportunity to short-circuit the power of the Senate leadership and the Catholic Church: winning big in this fall's elections. And they are already targeting some key seats - on the Senate Judiciary Committee and in the broader chamber.

It's easy to overestimate the power of the ground game in elections. But same-sex marriage proponents will be doing all they can to get out the vote for gay-friendly candidates.

If they succeed in electing a few more allies, it'll then be a question of how susceptible Senate leadership is to a groundswell within the chamber - and to whatever pressure advocates can mount on the outside. 

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