Thursday saw the Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee hear over three hours of testimony on a controversial civil unions bill that both supporters and opponents of same-sex unions have criticized.
The hearing drew about 100 people and lasted more than three hours, with speaker after speaker outlining — sometimes in carefully reasoned terms, sometimes in personal and emotional terms — why they oppose the bill.
“In establishing a separate but equal status for gay and lesbian human beings, you will forever designate our totally human and loving lesbian daughter, Luisa, and her equally human and loving lesbian spouse, Brenda, as abnormal creations,” said Anthony DeLuca, of North Kingstown. “Our pain is most palpable and it runs very deeply. Luisa and Brenda are not animals.”
Others said their goal is not to deny rights or hurt people, but to stand up for traditional marriage because it is God’s will and provides the best environment in which to raise children.
“You’re changing the whole complexion of what the word marriage means,” said Ronald L’Heureaux, of the Rhode Island Chapter of the Black Robe Regiment. “You’re forcing us to accept what we deem as immoral.”
The House passed the bill 62 to 11 last month.
Critics say that lawmakers, including openly gay House Speaker Gordon Fox, caved far too quickly to gay marriage foes without giving a marriage equality bill, that currently sits untouched in a House subcommittee, a chance.
House Speaker Fox said that the Senate leader is on record as against same-sex marriage and that there was “no realistic chance” of passing a same-sex marriage bill this year. In light of this, Fox offered that a civil unions bill is a pragmatic compromise and that some recognition is better than none at all.
Regardless, this dispute led gay marriage advocates to hold a protest upon the bill’s introduction into the General Assembly.
Of course, gay rights detractors have also made their opposition known. Groups like the National Organization for Marriage have said that the bill will be a back-door way to legalizing same-sex marriage through court intervention, and said at Thursday’s senate hearing that the legislation does not go far enough to protect the religious community.
The senate committee is expected to act on the bill within the next two weeks.
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