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Rhode Island Legislators Abandon Gay Marriage, Focus on Civil Unions

Rhode Island Legislators Abandon Gay Marriage, Focus on Civil Unions

Citing a lack of support for a marriage equality bill, Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox on Wednesday took a decisive step in declaring the bill dead and backing a civil unions bill instead.

Fox, who is openly gay, said there is little chance of moving the gay marriage bill that currently sits in legislative committee, and that opposition in the Senate is just too strong.

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed has gone on record opposing marriage equality.

As such, Fox wants to throw his support behind a civil unions bill so as to ensure some progress on the issue. Lawmakers are now busy crafting said bill.

From On Top Magazine:

State Representative Peter Petrarca announced he could introduce the legislation as early as Thursday.

Petrarca said his civil unions bill would be modeled after similar laws recently approved in Illinois, Delaware and Hawaii.

“If you look at civil union bills anywhere in the country, you’ll have a really good sense of what we’re going to be blending together,” he said.

Petrarca, a supporter of giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry, called a civil unions bill a “giant step.”

Expanding on the above, reports suggest that the bill will in fact be introduced Tuesday, May 3.

Interestingly, The Boston Globe notes that Rep. Frank Ferri, a Warwick Democrat who is also gay, has said that he “wants to see the bill’s details before making up his mind.”

Gay marriage opponents will likely oppose a civil unions bill, as they nearly always do, because they say it is a back-door to gay marriage. However, proponents of marriage equality, especially those within the gay community, may perceive the abandoning of the gay marriage bill as premature and the civil unions bill as a compromise that didn’t need to be made had legislators only had proper conviction in the first place.

Indeed, the legal group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders released a statement following this announcement that left no uncertainty as to its opposition to this move:

Karen Loewy, GLAD Senior Staff Attorney, said “Nothing short of marriage is equality for Rhode Island’s gay and lesbian citizens and their children.

[...]

“More to the point, civil unions tell gay people and their kids that they are second class citizens and that their families matter less than other families.  As an organization committed to equal justice under law, we find a civil union solution completely unacceptable.”

As such, the bill’s reception next week could be very interesting, as will the debate surrounding whether civil unions should be law in Rhode Island.

 

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, wtih thanks to Jack Newton.

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17 comments

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5:49AM PDT on May 3, 2011

Thanks for the article.

12:49AM PDT on May 3, 2011

I have always thought, due to our supposed separation of church and state, that all government sanctioned 'unions/contracts' should be 'civil unions' and that they be separate from 'marriage'. Marriage should be a separate non-governmental rite of passage performed under the auspices of the religion of the couple's choice.

8:35AM PDT on May 1, 2011

Noted

1:31PM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

Right On!! I agree. All marriages are civil unions--a legal contract between two people and the state. They do not need the blessing of a church to be valid.

1:21PM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

Do you people remember when blacks couldn't ride on the bus? We are doing the same thing to Gays today. Shame on all of You!!!

12:21PM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

I don't know where the rest of you come from, but where I grew up, a marriage of a heterosexual couple performed by a justice of the peace or a county judge or any other public official was referred to as a "civil union".

With a civil union bill, all that's being lost, as of the moment, is the right to marry in church or to have a minister officiate.

Hey. Married is married. I done it more than once, and each time it was a civil union. I've never been married in a church, but I've been married just the same.

I sure wish these homophobic males would just get over it.

10:25AM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

what not enough guts to say: WE THE PEOPLE, as in everyone, including the Gays and Les. can get married in your state. your leaving it as if your gay, your taking your chance in moving here... we do not accknowlege your vows to your spouse... and your kids are not legally yours. by marriage..the heck there not.. they are people too.... allow them space to count as a normal family in any community...

9:20AM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

Please don't give up on the marriage thing!!!! this is sooooo wrong i can't even express how wrong it is? CAN SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAINE TO ME WHY IT IS THAT MURDERERS,RAPISTS,CHILD MOLESTERS, NOT TO MENTION THE REST OF THE PRISON POPULATION, CAN GET MARRIED AS A SIMPLE BASIC CIVIL RIGHT. HELL SOME OF THEM CAN EVEN HAVE WEEKEND CONGICAL VISITS AND HAVE CHILDREN. YA KNOW THE BASIC SIMPLE RIGHT OF MARRYING THE PERSON WE LOVE SHOULD NEVER EVEN BE AN ISSUE. I LOVE HISTORY AND THE REASON WE HAVE HISTORY IS TO LEARN FROM OUR PAST.IF THEY BACK DOWN FROM THIS BASIC CIVIL RIGHT OF BEIN ABLE TO GET MARRIED.YOU MIGHT AS WELL OPEN THE DOOR TOO ALL THE CLOSETS IN AMERICA AND GET READY TO WALK BACK IN? BEIN GAY,LESBIAN,TRANSGENDERED, ALL OF THE ABOVE, THEY HURT NO ONE AND IF THEY GOT MARRIED IT HAS NO BEARRING ON ANYONE BUT THE TWO IT INVOLVES. I HONESTLY CAN'T BELIEVE THAT PRISONERS HAVE MORE RIGHTS THAN PEOPLE THAT HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG EXCEPT LOVE DIFFERENTLY. AND THAT AIN'T EVEN WRONG ONE THING I HAVE LEARNED IN MY TIME ON THIS PLANET OF HATE IS WE COULD USE MORE GAY AND LESBIANS TO TEACH US ALL HOW TO LOVE FROM THE HEART. PEOPLE PLEASE CONTACT THIS GORDON FOX AND TELL HIM NOT TO GIVE IN DAMMIT!!! A CIVIL UNION IS NOT A MARRIAGE! DON'T SETTLE FOR WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK YA SHOULD GRATEFUL FOR.EVERYONE THINKS THAT THEY SHOULD BE GRATEFULL FOR CIVIL UNIONS! WHAT THE HELL! THIS IS WRONG AND AND YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE TO SETTLE FOR A CIVIL UNION.THIS IS NOT ABOUT TABLE SCRAPS,IT'S LIVES!

7:56AM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

This goes far beyond marriage equality, it proves that little was learned during the riots for civil rights years ago. Equal means equal and in a land calling itself free the right to make choices and wasn't there something about happiness in that 1776 paper you hold so dear.

7:01AM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

I agree with all who believe that ALL UNIONS (including marriage as currently defined ) as well as gay & lesbian unions be licensed by the state. Then church groups can choose to "sanctify" or not. Let the churches use the term "Holy" marriage", and the state, civil unions or whatever terminology the legislature chooses. But this IS NOT A RELIGIOUS issue. It is a CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE and should be treated as such.

His Excellency, Bishop Tobin needs to research Catholic church history, specifically early church history. Besides ordaining women as deaconesses, there were specific ceremonies for the santification/blessing of same sex unions.

It is a pity that Rhode Island (founded by Roger Williams because of the religious intolerances of the Massachisetts Bay Colony) should now become as intolerant and prejudiced against a significant portion of its tax-paying, law-abiding citizenry.

I believe in God, a catholic (meaning "universal") God. And GOD DIDN'T CREATE ME AS A SECOND-CLASS BEING/SOUL. What gives the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations the right to think themselves more righteous than the Lord God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?

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