Fox: RI House will vote in January on legalizing gay marriage

House Speaker Gordon Fox pledged on Saturday that the R.I. House of Representatives will vote before the end of January on whether to legalize same-sex marriage.

Fox, a Providence Democrat who’s in the toughest re-election fight of his 20-year career, added specificity to the pledge he made in an interview on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers earlier this year, when he announced he would call a vote in the House on gay marriage during the 2013 session if he got re-elected.

Fox, who is openly gay, told a small crowd of supporters at the restaurant Blaze on Providence’s East Side that he would call a vote “during the third or fourth week of January.” The speaker opted not to call a vote on gay marriage last year because of opposition from leading Senate Democrats including Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Newport.

Fox’s opponent, independent Mark Binder, has criticized the speaker for failing to call a vote, saying he “put marriage equality on the back burner because he didn’t think it would pass a Senate vote.” Binder says on his website he’s pleased Fox is now calling for a vote, but “I only wish that he’d done it years ago.”

Fox was joined at Blaze by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, who traveled with his wife and baby son from their home in New Jersey, which was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Kennedy made a forceful speech urging voters in House District 4 to choose Fox over Binder, arguing Fox would play an instrumental role in passing same-sex marriage in Rhode Island.

Other notables who joined Fox at the event were Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, former gubernatorial candidate Myrth York, Rhode Island Democratic Party chairman Ed Pacheco, Providence city solicitor Jeff Padwa, Providence Rep. Chris Blazejewski, Warwick Rep. Frank Ferri, Cranston Rep. Art Handy and Ray Sullivan, who heads the pro-legalization group Marriage Equality Rhode Island.

“If Gordon Fox isn’t re-elected, God only knows when we’ll get a vote called in the House on marriage equality,” Sullivan wrote to Marriage Equality supporters in an email endorsement sent Friday.

Fox became emotional during his speech to the group, saying he’d been deeply touched by the “outpouring of support” he’s received from friends and constituents during a tough campaign against Binder. Separately on Saturday, new mailers attacking Fox went out to District 4 residents from an unknown group calling itself “Clean Up Rhode Island” and listing its address as 315 Thayer St., Providence.

• Related: Fox: Gay marriage vote still set for 2013 despite Senate losses (Sept. 12)

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