R.I. House Committee Advances Controversial Civil Unions Bill

A controversial same-sex civil unions bill was advanced by a Rhode Island House committee on Tuesday in a 9-3 vote.

Gay marriage advocates have criticized the bill saying that legislators opted for civil unions over gay marriage for political ease without even putting up a fight for full marriage equality.

From the Providence Journal:

The committee took no public testimony before voting and there was little discussion — only an update from a House lawyer on several “technical” changes made to the bill since last week and a comment from Rep. Doreen M. Costa, R-North Kingstown, who asked why the committee was voting.

“I have never seen more opposition to any bill in the four months that I’ve been up here. I’m not just talking about two or three or four people opposing this bill, I’m talking thousands and thousands,” Costa said. “If we have nobody that wants this bill, then why would the members of this committee vote this bill out?”

When other committee members indicated they had nothing to add, Chairwoman Edith H. Ajello asked for a motion, and the committee voted.

A House floor vote is scheduled for Thursday.

After the vote, committee member Peter F. Martin — who sided with the majority — said most committee members supported the bill because that is what most people want.

“The majority of the people that I speak to in my daily life, my constituents, just basically say to me, give them civil unions,” he told a reporter. “Those people who say let them have civil unions are not so impassioned about the issue. They are being, what I believe to be, very Christian about the issue, and they say give them what they need.”

He added: “In all due respect to the passionate people that come up here … in the polls … those are the people who gravitate toward the extremes.”

As I wrote in our previous coverage of this story, 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 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.

However, other than a handful of staunch religious conservatives, reaction from the wider religious community seems to have been rather muted at this stage.

For past coverage of this issue, please click here.

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


Annmari Lundin
Annmari L6 years ago

Anyone opposing equal marriage rights using the argument that it would somehow disenfranchise straight couple's marriages, should check these countries out:
Sweden, Spain, Uruguay, Norway, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, South Africa, Nepal.
Ask the straight couples in these countries if they somehow feel their marriages are less worth now when they don't have a monopoly of getting hitched?
I bet you do not get a single negative response!

And as for the children...Isn't it better that kids have two legal parents to care for them then risk being shipped off to an orphanage or unknown relatives should the biological parent decease?

And lastly, for the sake of justice and fair treatment and equality: Marriage for all consenting adults, no matter skin color, heritage, wealth, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc, etc, etc.

Let love rule the world and we will all be happier!

Mike S.
Mike S6 years ago

We do not have licensing for baptism, circumcision, communion, confirmation, etc., Lets get rid of it for marriage too. EVERYONE should have a civil union...let religious groups perform marriage ceremonies...oh yea, and remove the right of priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, etc. from issuing a Civil Union certificate...and only the Civil Union license would confer any benefits....

Naomi Stephan
Naomi Stephan6 years ago

I love the use of the word "give them" as if we were some sort of chattel like Marie Antoinette felt. Ever notice that conservative heteros rule the courts, the law, and Congress. Any connection between that and the anti gay laws in the US?
As always those who rule can steam roll over anyone and everyone they please - viz the exclusion of blacks, women in the past, and STILL gays and lesbians today.
I am 72 live in Germany, have had to leave the US to live with my same gender partner. Try it some time heteros - give up your home, your friends, your family and possessions to be with the person you love. Positively medieval. And Obama folks, is standing by and doing nothing about it.

Past Member 6 years ago

Equal Justice Under Law means precisely that.

The word "marriage" conveys the same meaning and emotion to same-sex couples as to "traditional" married couples. When the SCOTUS ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), they struck down the doctrine of "separate but equal."

It's real simple: for those who disdain the thought of same-sex marriage, simply don't have - or attend - one. (Those who believe their own marriages will somehow be "demeaned" by allowing those they dislike to be married should see a therapist.)

Juliet D.
judith sanders6 years ago

I wish every state had civil unions for everyone. I know a lot of people, including myself, who would prefer one to a "marriage," with its ancient religious baggage. Let's all fill out the same paperwork at the courthouse, and save the vows and festivities for church or family ceremonies.

Brian C.
Brian C6 years ago

By traditional, I am describing what in todays attitudes are called conservative, though I hate that term because it kinda refers to the extreme religious right in the U.S. and Republicans, both of which I don't like. By traditionalists I am referring not to southern racists(obviously) -, as far as the southern race issue goes, I would have liked to see John Brown be successful. I was instead referring to the belief that the Founding Fathers, though not perfect, should be more conservatively interpreted than loosely interpreted, which fine for some but not me.

Ricki I.
Ricki I6 years ago

Brian, will you please clarify what you mean by "Traditional Americans"? Are they the same ones who kept interracial marriage illegal in some states until the late 1960's? Or wish to deny women the opportunity to work outside the home? Also, please do not speak for all Christians- some support equal rights for all.

Brian C.
Brian C6 years ago

Glenna I was under the impression that civil unions in this case in R.I. do give hospital visitation rights as well as most rights equal to traditional/man/woman marriages. If it isn't the case here, I might have misunderstood some details of the article.

Again I support civil unions, state by state, which are equal to traditional marriage, with the exception of calling it marriage. In my opinion, that should show reasonable LGB's and reasonable Traditional Americans and Christian Americans the respect all sides want.

Glenna Jones-kachtik
Glenna Kachtik6 years ago

Will these civil unions have the same rights & benefits as a straight civil union & marriage??? If not this is completely unacceptable.
Respect, Brian? Respect IS a 2 way street. If you are able to file jointly on your income tax, go visit your wife as they lay dying in a hospital, give them a hug in public, receive their benefits when they die - you can hardly claim to respect LGBTQ people by refusing them the same rights, can you? Is it respect to basically deny them rights and tell them they needed to stay in the closet? Or how about my all time fave - they are not discriminated against they have the same right to marry the opposite sex member they wish....
People who excuse lack of common rights with - if they would only - right away signal the fact that they don't believe they should have any rights.

Brian C.
Brian C6 years ago

Until the Gay Marriage supporters start showing respect and tolerance to their opponents, I highly doubt the LBG' s will get the respect they are seeking. You can't force someone to respect you, it will only create more tension.