The Senate gay marriage whip count

My cover story in this week's Phoenix - on-line later today - will take a deep dive into the looming Senate battle over gay marriage.

The piece touches, in part, on the whip count I've developed - a senator-by-senator analysis of where everyone stands on the legislation. I'm offering a sneak preview in this space. (Check out the Providence Journal's partial count, which differs a little from mine, here.)

This sort of analysis is, inherently, an imperfect science. Senators don't return calls. Votes are fluid. Insiders have different views on where, precisely, certain senators stand.

The current count, moreover, may look quite different than the final one, should the bill make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and onto the floor. Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed will certainly exert some influence. Some members could "take a walk," abstaining from the vote. And if the measure looks like it's headed toward passage, senators on the fence - or even leaning no - may hop on board.

It's nice to be with the winners, of course. But with public opinion in Rhode Island and across the country shifting rapidly toward support for gay marriage, lawmakers may also want to land on "the right side of history."

All those caveats aside, here's my count: 14 yeses, three lean yeses, 14 nos, four lean nos, and three toss-ups. Couldn't be much closer. First, the yeses and nos:

  • Yes: Juan Pichardo, Gayle Goldin, Adam Satchell, Christopher Ottiano, Donna Nesselbush, Ryan Pearson, Stephen Archambault, Hanna Gallo, Josh Miller, Erin Lynch, Catherine Cool Rumsey, Dawson Hodgson, James Sheehan, V. Susan Sosnowski
  • No: Maryellen Goodwin, Dominick Ruggerio, Harold Metts, Frank Ciccone, Walter Felag, Jr., Louis DiPalma, M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Edward O'Neill, Marc Cote, Frank Lombardo, Frank Lombardi, Michael McCaffrey, William Walaska, Leo Raptakis

These yeses and nos aren't etched in stone; one gay marriage supporter told me he thought Walaska might be turned, for instance. But the votes look pretty solid.

Here's the group of 10 senators in the middle who could decide the fate of the bill - some of whom appear to be leaning (in some cases quite heavily) in one direction or the other:

  • Paul Jabour (D-Providence) is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He's indicated he will vote same-sex marriage onto the floor so the full body can decide. He has wrestled with where he personally stands on the issue, but says he’ll listen to his relatively liberal constituents. I rate him a lean yes.
  • James Doyle (D-Pawtucket) tells the Providence Journal he’s opposed to gay nuptials. But insiders aren’t convinced that’s where he’ll land. We’ll rate him a lean no.
  • Daniel DaPonte (D-East Providence) said during an election-season debate that he would support “a form of” same-sex marriage. But he hedged a bit afterward. He’s a toss-up.
  • Elizabeth Crowley (D-Central Falls), a deeply religious person, sides with liberals when it comes to protecting social services. She’s been a bit squeamish on same-sex marriage, but I rate her a lean yes.
  • Bill Conley (D-East Providence), a freshman with a key vote on Senate Judiciary, is a lean no based on his past statements on marriage.
  • Roger Picard (D-Woonsocket) seems opposed to same-sex nuptials. But there may be some wiggle room there. He’s a lean no.
  • Nick Kettle (R-Coventry), a 22-year-old student in his second term, tells me he is personally in favor of gay marriage, but will weigh the opinion of a constituency that seems mostly opposed. I rate him a lean yes.
  • Paul Fogarty (D-Glocester) tells the Journal he is against same-sex marriage. And it seems likely he’ll land there. But he may be persuadable. He’s a lean no for now.
  • David Bates (R-Barrington), the minority whip, seems partial to a popular referendum on the question. But he tells me he would “consider” a same-sex marriage bill that offers substantial protections for religiously affiliated institutions that don’t want to recognize gay nuptials. We’ll rate him a toss-up.
  • Dennis Algiere (R-Westerly), the minority leader, looks like a toss-up at the moment.
The ambiguity hanging over the bill has its own political ramifications. I discuss that, and more, in the cover story due out online this afternoon and in print tomorrow. Stay tuned.


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