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Posts for January, 2013

Rhode Island to introduce marriage bill

Timothy Kincaid

January 1st, 2013

Providence Journal

Legislation allowing gay couples to marry in Rhode Island will be introduced on Thursday, the bill’s longtime sponsor, state Rep. Arthur Handy, said Tuesday, the opening day of the 2013 General Assembly session.

Voters Send Record Number of LGBT Pols to Washington

Jim Burroway

November 7th, 2012

“Now, I am well aware that I will have the honor of being Wisconsin’s first woman senator. And I am well aware that I will be the first openly gay member,” Baldwin said to loud cheers and chants of “Tammy, Tammy!” from her supporters. “But I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference.”

Yesterday’s election was a watershed moment for LGBT equality. Not only did voters defeat attempts to deny marriage equality in four states at the ballot box, but a record number of LGBT representatives will be going to Washington to serve in Congress, including the nation’s first openly gay Senator, Tammy Baldwin (D) from Wisconsin. With 99.6% of the vote counted, Baldwin defeated former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) 1,528,941 (51.5%) to ,363,994 (45.9%).

Five other openly gay representatives have won their races for Congress. Returning to Congress are Jared Polis (D-CO) and David Cicilline (D-RI). New gay members include Mark Takano (D-CA), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), and Mark Pocan (D-WI). Pocan made history himself be becoming the first openly gay representative to take over a House seat from another openly gay representative when he won Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s old seat.

Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema (D) leads in a tight race over former Paradise Vally mayor Vernon Walker (R) to become the first openly bi member of Congress. All precincts have been reported, but there are still a number of provisional ballots to be counted, making a final call in that race impossible.

Click here to see the latest results for Congress.

Election Liveblog

Jim Burroway

November 6th, 2012

2:00 EST: One more thing:

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Retention Vote:
David Wiggins:
Yes (retain): 54% 
No: 46%
83% reporting.

NOM is having a very bad night. A historically bad night. I’m going to bed now and I will sleep very, very soundly.

1:39 EST: President Obama is now giving his victory speech. And with that, I’m going to sign off for the night. I will provide an update with the latest results again tomorrow morning.

1:30 EST: Here is a rundown of all of the LGBT-related races I’ve been following:

BALLOT MEASURES:

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 54.2% √
No: 45.8%
58.1% reporting.

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 51.2% 
No: 48.1%
96.8% reporting.

Minnesota, Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 49.2.5%
Blanks: 1.5%
Yes: 49.2%
67.4% reporting.
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

Washington, Referendum 74: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 51.8.9%
No: 48.2%
49.9% reporting.

SENATE RACE:

Wisconsin:
Tammy Baldwin (D, openly lesbian): 51.2%
Tommy Thompson (R): 46.2.%
86.8% reporting.

CONGRESSIONAL RACES:

Arizona:
Kyrsten Sinema (D, openly bi): 47.4%
Vernon Parker (R): 46.3%
86% reporting.

California:
Mark Takano (D, openly gay): 54.4%
John Tavaglione (R): 45.6%
13% reporting.

Colorado:
Jared Polis (D, openly gay): 54.6%
Kevin Lundberg (R): 40.4%
45.3% reporting.

Massachusetts:
Richard Tisei (R, openly gay): 47.1%
John Tierney (D) 48.4%
98.3% reporting.

New York:
Sean Patrick Maloney (D, openly gay): 51.7%
Nan Hayworth (R): 48.3%
96.7% reporting.

Rhode Island:
David Cicilline (D, openly gay): 53.1%
Brendan Dohert (R): 40.7%
97.0% reporting

Wisconsin:
Mark Pocan (D, openly gay): 67.4%
Chad Lee (R): 32.6%
90.5% reporting.

12:55 EST: Gov. Mitt Romney is now giving a very classy consession speech, congratulating President Obama for his win.

12:50 EST: Here is a rundown of the ballot measures addressing same-sex marriage. Voters in two states have approved marriage equality. Voters in Washington are on their way to approving marriage equality, and Minnesota voters look poised to turn down a proposal to write a permanent ban on same-sex marriage in the state’s constitution. After voters in 30 states have written marriage equality bans into their state constitutions, we now have a remarkable turnaround in 2012. Remember this day.

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 54% 
No: 46%
51% Reporting

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 52% 
No: 48%
93% Reporting

Minnesota, Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 48.5%
Blanks: 3.7%
Yes: 47.9%
53% reporting.
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

Washington, Referendum 74: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 52%
No: 48%
50% reporting.

12:40 EST: Tammy Baldwin has now given her victory speech. With 79% reporting, she has defeated Gov. Tommy Thompson 51-47%, making her the first openly gay Senator in American history.

12:38 EST: Now I’m ready to call Maryland’s Question 6 a win for equality! With 92% reporting, Question 6 has passed 1,126,598 to 1,050,179 (52-48%) Maryland voters have joined those in Maine to approve marriage equality at the ballot box. I don’t know about you, but this really feels like a truly historic turning point.

12:30 EST: Colorado has now gone to Obama, bringing his lead to 290-201. There’s a lot of talk about whether Ohio was prematurely declared, but even if Ohio went red, this would still be Obama’s victory. An ugly one, especially if he doesn’t win the popular vote, but it is a win.

12:28 EST: Another gay congressman is headed to Washington. Sean Patrick Maloney (D) has defeated Rep. Nan Hayworth (R), 52%-48%.

12:15 EST: Believe it or not, Politico has had the results swapped between Question 6 and the “Illegal immigrant tuition” question all night long. For the love of god!!!  Question 6 is up, but only 52-48%, way too early to call.

12:00 EST: With 44.1% reporting in Maine, Question 1 is projected to win!

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 54.4%
No: 45.6%
44.1% Reporting

11:45 EST: With 81% reporting in Maryland, Question 6 is projected to win!

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 58%
No: 42%
81% Reporting

11:31 EST: Remember James Hartline?

I took my Bible with me today and proudly honored God with my decisions. I refused to vote for the demonized Mormon Cultist Mitt Romney or Obama. Instead, like nearly two million other voters, I marked other and wrote in Jesus.

11:30 EST: Has Tammy Baldwin won her Senate race? Reuters called it, but right now with 53% reporting, she is only up 49-48%. She may yet win, but it looks like a lot of folks might have jumped the gun a bit.

11:23 EST: CNN has given Ohio to Obama. President Barack Obama, the most pro-gay president in American history, has been re-elected.

11:05 EST: A slew of new projections has put Obama on top 243-191. Ohio continues to lean toward Romney, but CNN is now mapping out multiple possibilities for Obama to win even without Ohio.

Here are the state marriage ballot measures. All of them are still looking good so far.

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 53%
No: 47%
30% Reporting

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 58%
No: 42%
55% Reporting

Minnesota: Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 52%
Blanks: 3.8%
Yes: 45%
19% Reporting
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

10:55 EST: Obama is now tied with Romney, 172-172. Ohio is leaning toward Obama, and FLorida and Virginia are very nearly tied so far. It’s going to be a long night.

10:35 EST: Great news so far in the three states with marriage on the ballot that are reporting:

Maine, Question 1: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 55%
No: 45%
16% Reporting

Maryland, Question 6: Allow same-sex marriage.
Yes: 60%
No: 40%
41% Reporting

Minnesota: Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage ban.
No: 57%
Blanks: 1.5%
Yes: 42%
7% Reporting
Remember: The Amendment needs to pass by more than half of all ballots cast. Blanks will be added to the “no” vote for the final tally.

10:25 EST. In Rhode Island, it looks like openly gay Rep. David Cicilline has defeated Republican challenger Brendan Doherty. With 82% reporting, Cicilline is ahead 50-44%.

In Massachusetts, Richard Tisei is trailing in his question to become the first openly gay Republican congressman. Rep. John Tierney is leading 49-47% with 58% reporting.

10:15 EST: We can celebrate Tammy Baldwin’s win now. Fox News is projecting that she will be the new fabulously openly lesbian Senator from Wisconsin. History is made!

Question 1 in Maine is now tightening. With 11% reporting, it is now up 53-47%.

10:00 EST: Mitt Romney has won his home state of Utah. But he lost New Hampshire

With 7% reporting, Question 1 is passing in Maine, 55-45%.

With 23% reporting, Question 6 is passing in Maryland, 61-39%.

With only 3% reporting, Amendment 1 is trailing in Minnesota. 61-38%, with about 1.5% of the ballots blank for the proposed amendment. Blank ballots are will be counted as no votes.

9:45 EST: CNN Projects Elizabeth Warren (D) has unseated Scott Brown (R) in Massachusetts, and JOe Donnelly (D) has defeated Richard Mourdock (R) in Indiana. God’s will, you know. These are both pick-ups for Dems.

9:42 EST: NBC and Fox have given Wisconsin to Obama. CNN has finally given Pennsylvania to Obama also.

9:35 EST: The Associated Press has declared Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) the winner in her Senate race against former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), making Baldwin the first openly gay Senator in U.S. history. Oops, take that back. The AP has NOT called for Baldwin.

9:20 EST: Fox called Pennsylvania for Obama. I’ll take it.

9:15 EST: Vote counts for Maryland’s Question 6 and Maine’s Question 1 are excruciatingly slow. With 3% counted in Maine, Question 1 is trailing 4,253-5,362. In Maryland, Question 6 is passing 192,860-157,767 with only 1% of the vote counted. Obviously with vote tallies this low, it’s way to early to see any trends.

9:00 EST: Polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Wisconsin, Wyoming. Last polls close in Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Texas. And with it, a whole slew of new projecitons, mostly lining up with expectations. So far, it looks like the red states are going heavily red, while the blue states are slower to come in. Right now, Romney is up 152-123.

CNN says that the Republicans will hold on to the House. Obama is getting a lot of grief for not campaigning in key House races on behalf of Democratic candidates.

8:50 EST: Alabama is red. Romney is up 82-64.

People are still in line in Florida and Virginia, even as polls have officially closed. Those who are in line will get to vote. Twitter hashtag #stayinline is now trending upward. It sure would have been nice if someone had mentioned to Florida and Virginia election officials that they were supposed to be ready for an election today.

8:30 EST: Polls just closed in Arkansas, which CNN has called for Romney. CNN has also called Tennessee as well, putting Romney ahead 73-64.

So far, only about 1% of the results are in for Maryland’s Question 6 and Maine’s Question 1, which means that there aren’t enough results to talk about yet.

8:25 EST: In the Senate races, it looks like the Angus King, the independent candidate for Maine’s Senator to replace Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) is headed to Washington. He hasn’t said which party he will caucus with, but most observers expect that he will caucus with the Dems. Another possible pickup for the Dems might be Joe Donnelly, who is leading Richard Mourdock by 50-44% with 30% of the votes counted. Mourdock, you may recall, got in trouble during the debate when he said that when a child is born as a result of rape, it’s God’s will.

8:16 EST: Georgia now goes to Romney, bringing the EC count to 64-56 for Obama.

8:00 EST: Polls have now closed in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.

CNN has called a Delaware, DC, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts and Rhode Island for Obama, and Oklahoma for Romney. This puts Obama up 64-40 in the Electoral College, with Maine splitting its vote 3-1 for Obama. (Nebraska is the only other state that is not winner-take-all in the Electoral College.)

Virginia officially closed but:

Polls closed in Virginia at 7 p.m. ET, but with long lines at polling places around the state — and those in line still able to vote — the state is delaying counting votes so as not to unduly influence those still waiting in line. Smart move.

7:43 EST: CNN has now called South Carolina and West Virginia for Romney. Not much of a surprise. It’s now Romney, 33-3 in the electoral count.

Polls close in Maryland and Maine at 8:00. Hopefully we’ll start to get an early look at the marriage ballot measures in those states soon after.

7:30 EST: Polls have now closed in North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia. CNN’s exit poll has Obama up by 3 in Ohio and tied in North Carolina.

7:19 EST: CNN has called Kentucky for Romney, and Vermont for Obama, which means that Romney leads the electoral college count 8-3. And we’re off!

7:00 EST: Polls have closed in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia. First results will probably begin within the half hour. Here are the races I’ll be watching, in addition to the presidential election and any others you think I should keep an eye out for.

Consider the comments thread for this post an open thread, which I’ll be watching for whatever tips you have. And jokes. We may need some jokes. Or videos of cute kittens. Whatever you got. You can also email them by hitting the Contact Us link on the sidebar.

Chafee’s executive order recognizes marriage

Timothy Kincaid

May 15th, 2012

Governor Lincoln Chafee (I, nee R), has signed an executive order authorizing state agencies in Rhode Island to recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states. Rhode Island currently recognizes civil unions for its own residents.

Is Rhode Island Next?

Jim Burroway

February 16th, 2012

The Providence Journal reports:

Rep. Frank Ferri, D-Warwick, and Sen. Josh Miller, D-Cranston, will introduce a bill to repeal a controversial section of Rhode Island’s new civil-unions law that exempts religious organizations from recognizing same-sex unions.

Rep. Art Handy, D-Cranston, and Sen. Rhoda Perry, D-Providence, will submit a proposal to grant gay couples the right to marry.

And Rep. Larry Valencia, D-Richmond, and Sen. Donna Nesselbush, D-Pawtucket, will submit legislation allowing gay couples married in other states to divorce in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island’s deeply unpopular civil union law, which went into effect last summer, includes an extraordinarily broad religious exemption provision that extends far beyond protecting churches from being required to recognize civil unions. It actually had the effect of reversing several employment and other non-discrimination protections that LGBT people had until then already enjoyed under state law before civil unions went into effect. It’s a major reason why LGBT groups in Rhode Island opposed the law and urged Gov. Lincoln Chafee to veto it. Two months later, only nine Rhode Island couples bothered to become civil-unioned. By November, that number had skyrocketed. To thirty-nine.

Nine

Jim Burroway

August 17th, 2011

That’s how many couples that have entered into civil unions since Rhode Island began offering them in July. There was a time when news of a new state offering civil unions was loudly cheered. But when marriage equality — which was seen as very doable earlier this year — was ditched in favor of a very pale hint of an imitation, it landed with a thud. And as a result, Rhode Islanders have stayed away in droves:

“If it had been marriage people would have been lining up,” said Dawn Euer, a spokeswoman for Marriage Equality Rhode Island. “People are holding out for marriage. They want true equality, not a made-up, bureaucratic, second-class status.”

…Give it time,” said Rep. Peter Petrarca, D-Lincoln. “It’s summer. I’m sure we’ll see an uptick once people start figuring it out and deciding what they want.”

Uh-huh. Funny, but it was also summer in New York and nobody had to ask anyone there to just “give it time.”

NOM Loses Another Attempt To Flout Campaign Laws

Jim Burroway

August 12th, 2011

The National Organization for Marriage lost two more court cases yesterday when the First Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their bid to avoid complying with Rhode Island’s and Maine’s campaign disclosure laws. NOM had asked a federal district judge to exempt them from Rhode Island’s requirement that they disclose money they spent to support various candidates. This case involves NOM’s support for political candidates. A separate case in Maine concerning NOM’s support for a ballot question that overturned Maine’s marriage equality law in 2009 is still pending before the First Circuit Court. A lower court had upheld Maine’s financial disclosure laws concerning ballot measures.

Chafee signs civil unions

Timothy Kincaid

July 3rd, 2011

Trib

Rhode Island’s governor on Saturday signed into law a controversial bill legalizing same sex civil unions, but said it does not go far enough toward legalizing gay marriage.

GovernorLincoln Chafee, an independent who supports gay marriage, nonetheless signed the measure with the promise that it would move Rhode Island closer to the ultimate goal of legalizing gay marriage.

I think Chafee did the right thing.

Yes there are overly broad religious exemptions (and Chafee noted them). Yes some people will use these exemptions to unfairly discriminate.

But some Rhode Island couples very much need the protections that are provided – and honored by honorable people. We cannot stop here. Now we move forward – with the Governor – to correct the broad language and to enact true marriage equality.

LGBT Groups Urge Veto of Rhode Island Civil Unions Bill

Jim Burroway

June 29th, 2011

A broad coalition of LGBT advocacy groups are urging Rhode Island governor to veto the fatally flawed Civil Unions Bill which passed the state Senate earlier today. According to a press release sent out by two of those groups:

On the heels of a marriage victory in New York, marriage advocates including Freedom to Marry and the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) sent a letter late yesterday evening to Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee calling on him to veto the civil union bill currently under consideration if it comes to his desk in its present form.  The bill contains a provision that would allow   religious organizations and their employees to disregard couples’ civil union status, creating unprecedented, onerous and discriminatory hurdles for same-sex couples seeking to take care of one another.

“This flawed civil union bill undermines a crucial principle that Rhode Island has always stood for — respecting the separation of church and state,” said Marc Solomon, National Campaign Director for Freedom to Marry.  “Not only does the bill propose a separate-and-unequal status instead of ending the denial of marriage itself, it grants an unprecedented license to discriminate against same-sex couples and their families. Governor Chafee should veto this defective bill and work with the legislature to enact a marriage bill that ends discrimination while preserving religious and personal freedom on equal terms for all.”

The letter, which was signed by groups including Freedom to Marry and GLAD, reads: 
This amendment could allow individuals, who are legally required to recognize everyone else’s legal commitments, to opt out of doing so only for gay and lesbian people.   In practical terms, this law could allow religiously affiliated hospitals to deny a civil union spouse’s right to be by his spouse’s side and make medical decisions for him, and could allow religiously affiliated agencies to deny an employee’s right to leave in order to care for his civil union spouse under Rhode Island Family and Medical Leave.

To read the full letter and see the full list of signers, click here.

“The Corvese amendment actually diminishes protections already available under Rhode Island law, and is seriously damaging to Rhode Island’s gay and lesbian families. If it becomes law, there is trouble ahead for Rhode Island’s same-sex couples,” said Karen Loewy, Senior Staff Attorney for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.

Signatories to the letter include: American Civil Liberties Union, Family Equality Council, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Freedom to Marry, Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Marriage Equality Rhode Island, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

When New York lawmakers negotiated that state’s marriage equality bill, particular focus was on a set of provisions which would provide an exemption for religious groups and organizations from being required to recognize same-sex marriage. New York’s exemptions were narrow and carefully crafted, giving very little away from what was already constitutionally guaranteed under the First Amendment. Those limits were carefully placed around churches, religious schools, and housing provided for members of a particular faith.

But the exemptions in Rhode Island’s civil unions bill, as it currently stands, pretty much allows virtually anyone to ignore a couple’s civil union:

15-3.1-5. Conscience and religious organizations protected. –

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no religious or denominational organization, no organization operated for charitable or educational purpose which is supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, and no individual employed by any of the foregoing organizations, while acting in the scope of that employment, shall be required:

(1) To provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, certification, or celebration of any civil union; or

(2) To solemnize or certify any civil union; or

(3) To treat as valid any civil union; if such providing, solemnizing, certifying, or treating as valid would cause such  organizations or individuals to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.

(b) No organization or individual as described in subsection (a) above who fails or refuses to provide, solemnize, certify, or treat as valid, as described in subdivision (a)(1), (a)(2) or (a)(3) above, persons in a civil union, shall be subject to a fine, penalty, or other cause of action for such failure or refusal.

Civil Unions pass Rhode Island Senate

Timothy Kincaid

June 29th, 2011

NY Times

Less than a week after same-sex marriage was legalized in New York, the Rhode Island State Senate on Wednesday evening approved a bill allowing not marriage, but civil unions for gay couples, despite fierce opposition from gay rights advocates who called the legislation discriminatory.

Governor Chaffee is expected to sign the bill.

Mr. Chafee told reporters on Wednesday that he would probably sign the bill even though he thought the religious protections were overly broad.

“We’re taking incremental steps forward, as other states have,” he said. “We want to get on the path to full equality, and this is a step on the path.”

We will continue our fight for equality. And it appears that the first step will be to get State Senate President, M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D – Jamestown), somehow replaced. She now stands as the single biggest obstacle to civil equality in the state.

Civil Unions approved by RI Senate Committee

Timothy Kincaid

June 29th, 2011

WPRI.com

Rhode Island moved one step closer to allowing same-sex civil unions on Wednesday afternoon after the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill to legalize them.

The committee voted 7-4 to approve the measure. The full Senate is expected to vote on the legislation Wednesday evening.

Rhode Island Senate Committee vote tomorrow

Timothy Kincaid

June 28th, 2011

The Rhode Island Senate is, at last, acting on the Civil Unions bill. (Boston Globe)

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote Wednesday on the civil union bill. If the committee endorses the legislation, it will head to the full Senate for a final vote. Until Monday the bill appeared to be languishing on the Senate agenda as time ran out on the legislative session.

This is a crappy bill. Even if you set aside that this should be a marriage bill instead of a civil unions bill, it contains provisions that are considered disproportionately generous to religious objectors.

But that stuff is, for the most part, window dressing. It’s a battle over exactly which people are entitled to legally discriminate and – as in reality these provisions will impact very few real folk – they are distractions more than they are issues.

Do you really care if Pastor Steve down at the First Church of I’m Better Than You recognizes your civil union when pricing discounts for his church’s Anti-Halloween Festival? And if so, do you care so much that you’ll give up inheritance rights or other marital benefits?

I think that Rhode Island will, in short time, join the family of marriage equality states. But until that time, let’s pass this inferior civil unions bill and then move on to lobbying for full equality.

Rhode Island civil unions move along in the Senate

Timothy Kincaid

June 1st, 2011

Gay advocates are disappointed by the bill, anti-gay advocates oppose anything like it. In fact, there may only be about 100 people in all of Rhode Island who really want the civil unions bill and all of them may be in the legislature.

I once said, decades ago in college student government, that a perfect compromise is one in which neither side wins. And while that language is perhaps less than poetic, it has truth. While I don’t believe that this is an area in which we should settle for less than full equality, nor do I see any reason for incremental steps in Rhode Island, in term of compromise this is not a bad one. For an unnecessary compromise.

But civil unions are what Rhode Island is getting, and all it’s getting for now, so perhaps we should decide to be happy about it.

Tomorrow the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the bill.

Rhode Island civil unions pass the House

Timothy Kincaid

May 19th, 2011

The Rhode Island House has voted on civil unions and the bill passes 62 to 11.

Democrats voted 56 yes; 8 no; 1 not voting
Republicans voted 6 yes; 3 no; 1 not voting

The bill will pass now go to the Senate where its passage is certain and then it will be signed by the Governor. In the immortal words of Gavin Newsom, it’s going to happen whether you like it or not.

In our frustration with this second class solution in place of what was promised, let’s keep in mind that only three years ago we would have danced in the streets tonight in celebration of a civil unions victory. And come July 1, many gay couples in Rhode Island will have legal rights and security for their relationship that they do not have today.

What we need is a gay politician

A CommentaryA Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

May 18th, 2011

The disappointment in Rhode Island illustrates one of the problems that our community has in trying to achieve our goals of equality and fairness: legislators who are gay do not represent our community.

My congressional district is majority Hispanic. And they have elected a Hispanic congressman whom they expect to represent them and to look after their specific interests. My congressman came out of the Hispanic community, first established his name there, and gradually proved himself and gained the respect and support of his community. He does have other interests and agenda, but he knows his base and he knows that if he fails to represent his community’s interests then they’ll replace him with someone who will.

This is a typical pattern for minority communities and minority representation.

But it is not at all typical of politicians who are gay. Take, for example, Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox (AP):

“I believe they have a higher expectation of me,” Fox said, because of his sexual orientation. “I think it’s also people that want this badly, that may not understand the process as much. … When they say ‘Oh we’ve now got a gay speaker of the House, now anything is possible.’”

Fox, 49, has served in the legislature for nearly 20 years and came out in 2004 while addressing a gay marriage rally. But he seldom talks publicly about his sexual orientation.

Fox did not come out of the community and does not represent the community. Fox came out of the closet.

To Gordon Fox, the gay community is “they”, a group of people with whom he decided to associate in his 40′s. Fox has made his political career despite his orientation, by keeping it unspoken, by seeing it as a liability.

I do believe Gordon Fox when he says that he is disappointed. I believe him when he says that he wants to achieve marriage equality. But for Rep. Fox, gay rights are not and never will be his highest priority. He will never be willing to give up other issues, pay the political capital, or make our community’s needs his only agenda.

Because Gordon Fox owes us nothing. We did not create him or empower him or elect him to represent us. His loyalty is to a party structure, to his district, and to his fellow legislators who gave him his position. He would like to help us, but not at the cost of those to whom he owes his success.

I appreciate those politicians who are come out; I really do. I recognize that they are more receptive to our issues, that they can experience some sense of kinship. But they are allies, not representatives of our community.

And what our community needs at this time is not more politicians who are gay. What we really need now is a gay politician.

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.

RI Committee advances civil unions

Timothy Kincaid

May 17th, 2011

The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee voted 9 to 3 to advance the civil unions bill to the floor of the full House. It is likely to be passed by a wide margin on Thursday.

Rhode Island civil unions committee vote today

Timothy Kincaid

May 17th, 2011

No one is supporting civil unions in Rhode Island. But they probably will get them anyway.

The gay community and its supporters remain convinced that there are enough votes in the legislature to pass full marriage equality this year. And some are of the opinion that the passing of civil unions would set back or delay the eventual recognition of married gay couples. So gay organizations have been lobbying against a civil unions bill.

On the other side are those, like the National Organization for Marriage, who pretend to be concerned about “protecting marriage” but in reality are opposed to any recognition of same-sex couples whatsoever (and, indeed, any rights at all for gay people). The are lobbying against the civil unions bill, claiming that it would be a stepping stone towards marriage.

And it likely would.

But the legislature in Rhode Island is on the razor’s edge. Many want to support same-sex couples, but are hesitant about full marriage – perhaps out of religious fear, perhaps out of political calculation, or perhaps out of ol’ fashioned “but, but that’s how it’s always been” prejudice. And civil unions are the ideal compromise, a vote to show that they support gay people but also not likely to result in any voter backlash. (The days of a civil unions vote costing a politician votes is gone in the Northeast).

And as House speaker Gordon Fox, a gay man, has determined that getting a majority in the House is not possible (or would cost more political capital than he is willing to spend) and is supporting civil unions, politicians have a rock-solid basis for taking this route. And they are further justified by the fact that full equality would be subjected to a fierce opposition from Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, a Democrat that opposes marriage but supports civil unions.

And the first vote is today. The House Judiciary Committee will vote whether to send the civil unions bill to the full house and it is expected to do so.

It’s frustrating. Governor Lincoln Chafee is an outspoken advocate for marriage and polls show that a strong majority of Rhode Islanders support full equality. Democrats outnumber Republicans 65 to 10 in the House and 29 to 8 in the Senate. Waiting and compromise feels unnecessary and overly-cautious.

But that’s reality. Rather than marriage equality, Rhode Island will get civil unions this year.

And I’m (reluctantly) okay with that. As NOM notes, civil unions really are a stepping stone to marriage. And if DOMA fails in the courts (as it surely will), the federal recognition of same-sex marriages will compel civil union states to immediate revision so as to allow gay couples access to federal benefits.

Rhode Island marriage vote may come within weeks

Timothy Kincaid

March 2nd, 2011

Providence Journal:

House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, an openly gay Providence Democrat, says he’s “doing everything in his power” to move the question forward.

He acknowledged that a vote in the House Judiciary Committee could come as soon as March 10, the day that the Senate has scheduled a hearing on the Senate version of the legislation.

“That’s a potential,” Fox said. “The potential’s there but nothing has been set in stone at this point.”

Rhode Island: marriage bill to House Judiciary on Wednesday

Timothy Kincaid

January 30th, 2011

Boston Herald:

House lawmakers will take up a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island.

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on the bill Wednesday.

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