Rhode Island Civil Unions Includes Strange Reciprocity Clause

Jim Burroway

May 18th, 2011

Yesterday, we noted that civil unions were voted out of committee and scheduled for a vote on the House floor Thursday. LGBT advocates see civil unions as a setback after having been assured this year that the legislature in Providence would take up full marriage equality, and the state’s LGBT groups are backing away from supporting this new legislation.

And for good reason. The race to water down Rhode Island’s civil unions bill has begun. Mike Airhart points out that the latest draft civil-union legislation appears to withhold recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states. Oddly, it does recognize civil unions from other states. The previous draft recognized “A civil union, or a substantially similar legal relationship, legally entered into a another jurisdiction.” The current draft strikes the “substantially similar” clause and recognizes only civil unions.

Which puts LGBT new residents and visitors to Rhode Island in a peculiar position. Rhode Island will recognize a couple joined in a civil union from New Jersey, but married couples from just a few miles across the border in Connecticut and Massachusetts will be legal strangers to each other.


May 18th, 2011

This whole Rhode Island situation is an unconscionable mess, far out of alignment with public opinion in the state. I’ll be watching for Equality Rhode Island’s endorsements in the upcoming election cycle, wallet in hand.


May 18th, 2011

This is the incremental approach that you were willing to accept.

When the opposition sees that you’re willing to settle for less that equal they will ALWAYS see just how much less you’re willing to settle for.

Now that anti-gay marriage people see that gays are willing to settle for civil unions they’re regrouping to oppose civil unions.

In the end we should have stuck to our guns and demanded marriage and settled for nothing less.

I used to believe in the incremental approach when it was the only viable option, but it’s a new day and we need to stop settling for what we were willing to settle for 10 years ago. It’s time to raise the bar.

Timothy Kincaid

May 18th, 2011

I think it is a frustrating reality that – for this year, at least – same sex couples will have second class recognition. Which is still better than none, I guess.

If I genuinely believed that turning down civil unions in Rhode Island would result in marriage within a year, I would oppose the bill… but I don’t have confidence in those who promise such legislation. After all, they promised it this year and it ain’t happening.

The thing that drives me stark raving mad is that gay politicians very seldom see themselves as representing our community. They usually were elected through other means and their orientation was “not an issue” in their campaign. Quite often they come out after they are elected.

A Hispanic candidate generally was elected by a Hispanic community to represent their interests. So too is a black or Asian representative.

But we don’t have any politicians elected specifically for us.

So Fox, while he is a gay man and does want marriage equality, does not see our community as his HIGHEST interest. He’s “not a single issue politician” and as such will make compromises to advance other parts of his agenda.

What our community really needs are politicians who will spend all of their political capital on us. Politicians for whom we are not only the highest priority, but the ONLY priority.

enough already

May 18th, 2011

I am going to tread very lightly here.
First, because my marriage in Europe is 100% legal and valid and genuine, regardless of whether the Christians like it or not.
Second, because there are excellent arguments on both sides of this issue.

That said, if I had seen that we didn’t have a chance (that rip-roaring baitch in the House is supposedly a Democrat?) I wouldn’t have tried it.

Now, however, that we have tried, to step back is to give our enemies an advantage which they must not be given.

No, we have to now pull together – that infamous working together I keep advocating and for which I keep getting criticized, I mean, after all, it’s only what worked for us in The Netherlands, Germany, Canada, etc. so what would I know? – and stand together, despite our better wishes and second thoughts.

Make them give us 3/5 human status. Take names of those who vote against us.

Then work together to end their reign of terror.

These are politicians. That means they are power and money hungry, greedy, immoral people who have, somewhere left slime trails. Find them. Exploit them. It worked in NY – it will work in Rhode Island.

Advance Democratic politicians who support us and get rid of the ones (legally, darlings) like Ms. See-You-Next-Tueday in the house.

We shouldn’t have played this game and we wouldn’t have started it had we worked together. Now that we’re in it, we have to play to win.


May 18th, 2011

If I genuinely believed that turning down civil unions in Rhode Island would result in marriage within a year, I would oppose the bill… but I don’t have confidence in those who promise such legislation. After all, they promised it this year and it ain’t happening.

While I agree with your sentiments here, I will note that I’m more concerned of how long it may take to get from civil unions (assuming they pass) to actual marriage equality. By accepting civil unions, I fear we may be giving people a great excuse to sit on their laurels and think they’ve done “good enough.” How many years will the topic of actual marriage equality be met with, “We gave you civil unions, why isn’t that good enough?” And remember, we’ve already answered that question, so in a sense, we are admitting that we’re willing to settle for “second best,” even if we only intend it to be a temporary thing.

And let’s face it, think of the number of “temporary solutions” that seem to never get replaced with permanent ones in our society.


May 18th, 2011

What about domestic and civil partnerships? And what about a French solidarity pact?

Tina Wood

May 18th, 2011

FYI: I did research on the language of civil unions and domestic partnership laws in other states. Without exception, they all have reciprocity clauses which include the “substantially similar” language or its equivalent, thus meaning that married same-sex couples from other states have legal protection when they travel to those states. If Rhode Island passes this legislation with this amended language, it will have the weakest civil unions law in the entire country. And if I were part of a legally married same-sex couple from another state (including the two states surrounding Rhode Island!), I would avoid Rhode Island like the plague. Nice job, legislators–way to help our tourism industry!

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