Providence Phoenix on "The Stunning Demise of Gay Marriage"


David Scharfenberg conducts a postmortem on SSM in the Ocean State:

But if the inside game was lacking, the outside game was problematic, too. Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI), the main advocacy group, was riven by internal conflict and stumbled badly in the early going.

Among [former MERI Spokesman Bill] Fischer's biggest critiques of MERI: a hesitance to engage, directly, with Bishop Thomas J. Tobin and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, which joined with the National Organization for Marriage-Rhode Island (NOM-RI), the local chapter of the leading anti-gay nuptials group in the country, to mount an aggressive lobbying effort from the start of the legislative session.

Tobin penned editorials and made direct contact with several legislators. The Reverend Bernard Healey, the church's chief lobbyist, was relentless. And NOM-RI launched a $100,000 television campaign and delivered an early barrage of phone calls and postcards that proved difficult to overcome.

"We let NOM get the jump on us.."

... [RI] advocates also hope to win substantial support from a national gay lobby that is increasingly focused on state-level races as the path to same-sex marriage laws and other priorities.

Tim Gill, a publicity-shy Colorado technology magnate at the center of the national lobby, has donated thousands to Rhode Island candidates and is paying $9000 per month this legislative session for two of the state's top lobbyists, Rick McAuliffe and Jeffrey Taylor of the Mayforth Group.

The hope is that local advocates can keep Gill and his circle of donors engaged as the 2012 elections approach. One argument they will make: Rhode Island's size means a small investment can go a long way.

But even with a well-funded, well-organized campaign, no one thinks the main pillar of opposition to gay marriage — Senate President Paiva Weed — is all that vulnerable. And absent a substantial shift in the membership beneath her, it is hard to imagine the political prospects for a same-sex marriage bill improving markedly in, say, 2013.