The Catholic Church, on the other side, can't flex the same kind of electoral muscle. But it does claim a deep hold on the local culture that gay marriage advocates — however sophisticated — can't match. We'll see which force is more potent.THE WHIP COUNT
If same-sex marriage advocates hope to convince Paiva Weed to release the bill from committee and allow an up-or-down vote on the floor, they'll probably need to demonstrate they have a majority in the 38-member Senate.
Only then can they make an effective appeal to Paiva Weed's democratic instincts and political self-interest — a Senate president who thwarts the will of her chamber risks alienating the rank-and-file.
Advocates on both sides are tight-lipped about their whip counts — their senator-by-senator analyses of where the chamber stands. And that's understandable. They don't want to discuss strategy or alienate the senators they've been courting.
But the Phoenix has put together its own list (see the "Not for Nothing" blog at providencephoenix.com for the complete rundown). It is fluid, of course. Subject to change.
And a final vote, should the bill make it to the floor, could look quite different than the current count: if the measure appears headed for passage, after all, members who are on the fence now — even leaning no — could hop on board to ensure they're on "the right side of history."
Caveats notwithstanding, the Phoenix counts 14 "yes" votes and 14 "no" votes. That leaves 10 senators in play — some of whom appear to be leaning in one direction or the other.
• Jabour (D-Providence), a member of Senate Judiciary, has indicated he'll vote same-sex marriage out of committee 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. The Phoenix rates 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 for now.
• 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, advocating long-shot legislation that would make all marriages civil — and therefore, equal before the law. 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 the Phoenix rates her a lean yes.
• Conley (D-East Providence), the freshman with the key vote on the Senate Judiciary Committee, 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 the Phoenix he is personally in favor of gay marriage, but will weigh the opinion of a constituency that seems mostly opposed. We 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.