R.I. lawmaker claims harassment for opposing same-sex marriage

By admin

Originally published on Advocate.com March 18 2004 12:00 AM ET

A Rhode Island lawmaker who authored a bill defining marriage as between a man and woman said Tuesday he's received harassing phone calls and been threatened with an organized boycott of his business. Rep. Victor Moffitt (R-Coventry) has been a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage since Massachusetts's highest court ruled last year that barring gay couples from marriage is unconstitutional. His bill, he said, would ensure that any gay marriages approved in other states would clearly be illegal in Rhode Island.

Moffitt, a tax accountant, said he's received threatening phone calls from someone who claims to be a former client who opposes his stance on same-sex marriage. The male caller also threatened to ruin his business, he said. At a Tuesday rally at the statehouse in support of his bill, Moffitt displayed an unsigned letter he said he received last week calling for a boycott of his business. He said another business located near his received the same unsigned letter. "I'm sick and tired of being called a bigot," Moffitt said, holding up the letter. "I do not hate gays and lesbians." He said he's been in business 30 years and won't be deterred by the threatened boycott. His bill is intended to uphold the "sanctity of marriage" and ensure that "any same-sex marriage approved in another state won't be legal here," he said.

Bills for and against gay marriage have been filed in Rhode Island, though none have received public hearings yet. Tuesday's rally attracted about 75 people, but many of those who attended were actually supporters of same-sex marriage there to peacefully oppose Moffitt's bill. Signs declaring marriage as being only between a man and a woman clashed with others urging marriage equality for gay couples. Frank Ferri, 50, of Warwick, held up a sign that read, "Together 23 years--denied access to marriage." "I'll be here [at the statehouse] as much as possible, until they pass a civil marriage law," he said. "I should be able to marry my partner." Several clergy members joined a line of speakers at the rally opposing same-sex marriage. "Look at the way God created marriage...between a man and a woman," said Richard Donnelly, pastor at St. Mark's Church in Cranston.