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RI Civil Unions Bill Introduced, Gay Marriage Advocates Protest

RI Civil Unions Bill Introduced, Gay Marriage Advocates Protest

A controversial same-sex civil unions bill was introduced into the Rhode Island General Assembly on Tuesday. Gay marriage advocates have criticized the move saying that legislators opted for the civil unions bill over a gay marriage bill without putting up any fight for full marriage equality.

Introduced by state Representative Peter Petrarca on Tuesday, the civil unions bill would grant all the same state-level rights as marriage.

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 in a House subcommittee, a chance. 

House Speaker Fox, however, cites that the Senate leader is on record as being against same-sex marriage and that there is “no realistic chance” of passing a same-sex marriage bill this year. In light of this, Fox says that a civil unions bill would be a pragmatic compromise and that some recognition is better than none at all.

Around 200 people led by pro-gay marriage group Marriage Equality Rhode Island gathered Tuesday to protest the introduction of the civil unions bill.

From On Top Magazine:

Angry protesters insisted separate is never equal and vowed to force a vote on marriage.

Democratic Representative Arthur Handy, the sponsor of the gay marriage bill, said he would introduce an amendment to Petrarca’s civil union bill, thus forcing a House vote this year on the issue. Many supporters believe Handy’s bill would have cleared the House. Less likely is the Senate, where Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed has said she supports civil unions but not marriage for gay couples.

Fox responded that such a move would jeopardize the civil unions bill.

“The result … would be to kill the civil unions bill, thus denying long-overdue rights to same-sex couples in Rhode Island,” Fox said in a statement. “I don’t know why Representative Handy would attempt to deny these important rights, and I hope he gives great thought to its negative impact on same-sex couples before offering such an amendment.”

The National Organization for Marriage’s Rhode Island chapter opposes both measures because the groups says the civil unions bill is “same-sex marriage by another name.” As such the group is already threatening lawmakers that they will “peel off” voter support on this basis.

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

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20 comments

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4:38PM PDT on Jun 24, 2011

And Nepal is going to have equal marriage rights before the USA!

6:36PM PDT on May 7, 2011

I agree small steps forward are better than no steps but seperate but equal doesn't work either.

2:50AM PDT on May 7, 2011

Discrimination is discrimination even when you try to wrap it up in casuistry. If some people are allowed to "marry" while others are allowed only "civil unions" then this is discrimination. As Beth M quite rightly says "equal rights means equal rights". This is not just splitting hairs or arguing about semantics. It hides a much more important issue and should be face squarely by anyone who wants to see a fair and just treatment forALL citizens rather for only SOME citizens

8:36PM PDT on May 6, 2011

Just fyi, separate but equal was never equal, unlike many civil union laws. But I don't really want to argue that. It's true that any rights the government grants to one person should be given to everyone else.

Here in California, I worked for the Prop. 8 campaign, and I can attest that many of the people I worked with are not your typical homophobes. In spite of our beliefs, we were very conflicted about the issue of same-sex marriage and did not join the campaign without serious reservations. Over the months, my wife and I discussed the importance of civil rights with others and were pleased at how many were open to the idea of taking the term "marriage" away from the state altogether, leaving only civil unions, while letting religious institutions decide who they marry, each according to their own beliefs.

Even as the controversy rages over an extremely sensitive issue, I hope we can learn to settle our differences peacefully, each of us seeing our "enemies" as human beings with complex and nuanced belief systems, the capacity to think rationally, and the potential to change our minds. Lets ignore the distorted caricatures that extremists would have us believe, and we will find it much easier to see eye to eye.

1:33PM PDT on May 6, 2011

Let's skip the second-class marriage nonsense of civil unions and simply get on with allowing every consenting adult to marry every other consenting adult when they both want to...absolutely no restrictions.

11:50AM PDT on May 6, 2011

"Separate but equal"...sound familiar? "Marriage" is what we commonly call legally recognized unions and "marriage" should be for everyone.

The only other option would be to call ALL legally recognized unions "CIVIL UNIONS" and "marriage" would be a religiously
sanctioned one.

But, unfortunately, homophobes don't want that--they want to keep same-sex unions just a step below those of others. And that's just wrong.

10:00AM PDT on May 6, 2011

You would hope logically that taking one step at a time would work but I'm sure the gay community knows that if the civil unions bill goes through it may be a long time before a bill can get through for gay marraige. Opponents will argue they already have civil unions so why do they need gay marraige.
It's about equality. Equal rights. It's sad they caved in to go with civil unions. It leaves the gay community wrong footed.

9:25AM PDT on May 6, 2011

it's a step in the right direction sometimes little steps are better then no steps.

8:22AM PDT on May 6, 2011

I'd have taken it a step further: The state would no longer define it as 'marriage' whether the partners are same or opposite gender. The state would only issue civil union certificates to consenting adult groups seeking to establish common households, perhaps including a minor disease safety test (All participants must test for STDs and RH Factor and be treated for or be free of anomalies). If a couple wants a 'marriage' they choose a church and ceremony (to which a JP would attend to the detail of adding the Civil Union certificate if not already existing) and get married. Different churches would allow different marriages; a ceremony for same-gender partners in a Unitarian church would have the same status as a ceremony for opposite gender partners in a Baptist or Catholic church.

7:58AM PDT on May 6, 2011

Norma V.
I'm not going to do the silly friend thing, so have to give you a star this way. Very well said!

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