Following Valentine's Day, it seems only appropriate to talk about love in Rhode Island, the state where I was born and raised. I love Rhode Island. I have written two books about Rhode Island. And one of the things I like most about Rhode Island is that it is a state filled with rebels. In fact, that's how the whole state was founded.
A fellow named Gov. Winthrop founded Massachusetts, and said, "We've come over here from England, and finally we have claimed religious freedom for ourselves." And Roger Williams was exuberant and said, "Yay, everyone is finally free to worship as they like!"
WINTHROP: "Yes, everyone is completely free to worship as we like."
WILLIAMS: "Pardon me, I think you meant as they like."
WINTHROP: "Everyone is completely free to worship as we like.
WILLIAMS: "That doesn't sound like religious freedom."
WINTHROP: "You are free to get the heck out."
So, Roger Williams founded his own colony, which would continue to be rebellious, being the first to break with England, the last to join the Constitutional United States, and pretty much ignored what everyone else did for the rest of time. And again, as a bit of an iconoclast myself, I admire that.
But one issue on which Rhode Island has wrongly stood out is marriage equality. Every other state in New England has long since legalized marriage equality, and Rhode Island has somewhat lagged behind. There are various possible reasons for this. Maybe they're worried the state is too small to fit all the celebration that would result from same-sex weddings. Or maybe the state is heavily Catholic and really listened to that guy with the big hat who recently quit.
I think the time is coming, though. Just recently, legislation has been introduced in the Rhode Island House of Representatives to legalize marriage equality. The legislation has already passed the House, and now lies with the Senate. And I believe it will pass. I remain optimistic that Rhode Island will follow the rest of New England in sustaining equal rights
New Hampshire, a few years ago, was the only other state in New England which had yet to do so. But then they passed marriage equality, though I think they didn't have a choice because their state motto is "Live Free or Die." It's hard to prevent people from living freely when your state motto says to do so. Frankly, sometimes I'm amazed New Hampshire has prisons, rather than merely deciding whether to let people go or administer the death penalty.
But my point is, most of New England has state mottos that presaged their eventual support of marriage equality.
Do you know the state motto here in Massachusetts? And no, it isn't "Pahk the Cah at Hahvahd Yahd." It isn't even "There's more than Boston, honestly." No, the state motto here is: "Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem." This is Latin for, "By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty," which explains why Massachusetts was the first to fight for gay marriage. We had to!
Vermont's motto is "Freedom and Unity," which is a pretty clear argument for marriage equality. Connecticut's motto is Latin for "He who transplanted sustains," which sounds like they're not only in favor of gay marriage, but support transsexuals as well. Maine's motto translates as "I lead," and they joined the rest of New England in leading by legalizing gay marriage.
So why be optimistic about Rhode Island? Look at their motto:
Seth Brown is a humor writer, the author of "It Happened In Rhode Island," and wants a job writing new state mottos. His work appears weekly in the Transcript, and weakly on RisingPun.com.