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.