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R.I. Senate Committee to Vote on Civil Unions

R.I. Senate Committee to Vote on Civil Unions

The Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on a controversial civil unions bill Wednesday.

From Reuters:

If voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, just days before the 2011 legislative session ends, the bill could face balloting by the full Senate as early as late Wednesday, Senate spokesman Greg Pare said.

Governor Lincoln Chafee, an independent, was expected to sign the bill, which already passed the House in May.

The proposal defines civil unions as a legal union between two individuals of the same sex, granting all the rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities to them that the state affords to people who are married.

The vote, which comes almost a week after New York legalized marriage equality, is the subject of much debate and even has gay marriage advocates riled.

Marriage equality proponents argue that House legislators, including openly gay House Speaker Gordon Fox, caved to pressure far too quickly, abandoning a full marriage equality bill in favor of the civil unions measure without putting up a fight. Fox in particular argued that the compromise was necessary given Republican Senate Leader had gone on record against marriage equality. Fox said the bill was a pragmatic compromise and offered that some rights were better than none at all.

One aspect of the House version of the bill that even Fox would struggle to justify is an amendment to allow religious-affiliated institutions, such as hospitals, schools and cemeteries, to disregard the status of a legal civil union. Equality advocates say that if the bill cannot be stripped of this amendment it should then be scrapped altogether and have made it clear they would ask Rhode Island’s governor to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk with the amendment attached.

From Toronto

The bill includes restrictions allowing people to ignore a union if they work for a religious organization.

“In reality what it does is it allows private and religious organizations to pro-actively discriminate against a minority class of citizens,” said Ray Sullivan of Marriage Equality of Rhode Island. “If they can’t remove the language, then we are asking the governor to do the right thing and veto the bill.”

UPDATE: The bill passed out of senate committee to the senate floor and, in a blisteringly quick vote, passed. It now moves to Gov. Chaffee for his signature. LGBT rights groups aren’t celebrating though. Find out why here.

Related Reading:

Rhode Island Senate Committee Takes Up Civil Unions Bill

R.I. House Committee Advances Controversial Civil Unions Bill

RI Civil Unions Bill Introduced, Gay Marriage Advocates Protest


Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to brainchildvn.

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4:56PM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

Danielle K., here's part of the problem

The bill includes restrictions allowing people to ignore a union if they work for a religious organization

I am married, and that means that no one can ignore the marriage, even if they don't like me for some religious reason.

so obviously they do not have everything except the term.

6:46AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

"The proposal defines civil unions as a legal union between two individuals of the same sex, granting all the rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities to them that the state affords to people who are married."

Okay, it sounds like they're getting everything but the term marriage. Maybe it's not ideal, but it is a step in the right direction. I don't see what's controversial about allowing same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.

5:45AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

Thanks for the article.

3:57AM PDT on Jun 30, 2011

Here we go again...everyone is equal, except when they are not. Wake up. It is the twenty-first century and there have been gay people for all twenty-one, plus all the centuries prior. Some people are gay: reality. Get over it. Gay marriage shouldn't even be an issue.

The Constitution gives everyone of us the same rights and protections. Therefore, this should be a non issue. Everyone, Constitutionally, should be allowed to do whatever they wish as long as it harms no other; marriage is no exception. When the States deny marriage equality they violate, if not the law, certainly the spirit of the law. And, how would the politicians that get in the way of equal rights feel if they were denied access to a loved one because of an ignorant lack of compassion.

As I've said before LGBTs should be allowed to be as miserable as the rest of us (relationship woes, divorce, infidelity, etc); that's equality.

11:25AM PDT on Jun 29, 2011

This is a good example of why there needs to be total and complete separation of church and state. All people should be entitled to the same rights as others under the constitution of theUnitedStates. Personal belief and religion should not enter the picture since it distorts equal rights and human rights issues thus causing inequality towards certain people and creating different classes of people. In other words, it creates a situation where all citizens are said to be equal, but are not really thought of as equals or treated as equals since some will have more (or less) rights than others. Thanks Steve.

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