PROVIDENCE—A Republican state representative is accusing a Democratic colleague of trying to use the issue of same-sex marriage as a bargaining chip in the push to tighten the state’s laws regarding the reduction of prison sentences through good behavior for those convicted of violent crimes.
Rep. Doreen Marie Costa (R-Exeter, North Kingstown) says she was approached on the House floor by fellow freshman Rep. Teresa Ann Tanzi (D-Narragansett, South Kingstown) with an offer to become a cosponsor of legislation that would make several changes to the state’s existing early release law in exchange for her support—as a member of the House Judiciary Committee—for same-sex marriage legislation. As of press time, the House Judiciary Committee has heard testimony on a bill seeking the legalization of same-sex marriage, but has not yet taken a vote on it.
“She (Rep. Tanzi) asked me if I would vote it out of committee,” Costa said in an interview with Rhode Island Catholic of Tanzi’s wish for her support of a same-sex marriage bill.
Costa said that when Tanzi approached her, she was holding a folder with the paperwork for her to sign that would make her a cosponsor of a bill.
“She smiled and said, ‘I hate to do this, but I have to horse trade. You can sign here if you vote gay marriage out of committee’.”
Costa said she was astounded at what she was hearing.
She said she responded, “Are you kidding me?”
With that, Tanzi simply walked away, she said.
Costa said that although she did briefly consider voting the marriage bill out of committee, it wasn’t because of any influence by Tanzi, and she quickly changed her mind.
“I have to stay true to what I ran on,” Costa said.
Tanzi did not respond to two requests for comment on this story, but Father Marcel Taillon, pastor of St. Thomas More Church in Narragansett, which is in Tanzi’s district, said he has tried to convince the representative that her stance on same-sex marriage does not reflect the overall view of her constituents.
“She’s got her mind made up,” Father Taillon said. “We’re very upset. Our district is a moderate district. She’s way out of step.
There are many, many faithful Catholics here.”
The pastor is disappointed that Tanzi has taken such an aggressive posture in promoting same-sex marriage.
“If it’s true that Rep. Tanzi was trying to force a vote for same-sex marriage, then that’s a radical activist position against marriage and religious liberty and conscience,” he said. “Not only does our representative not support marriage, but she’s aggressively and radically promoting gay marriage.”
Costa said that although it was unfortunate that she was not allowed to be a cosponsor of the bill that Tanzi introduced along with Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski and Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, she still supports the legislation that would prohibit those convicted of violent crimes from earning “good time” behavior credits that could later lead to their early release from incarceration, resulted from the case of convicted killer Michael Woodmansee.
Woodmansee, who was convicted of brutally murdering 5-year-old Jason Foreman in 1975, and attempting to strangle 14-year-old Dale Sherman in 1982 is eligible for early release due to “good behavior.”
“I would support that 100 percent. If it’s a good piece of legislation and (Tanzi’s) name is on it, I would still support it,” Costa said.
“I just think something of this magnitude just should not have been done.”