Chafee’s executive order recognizes marriage
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?
February 16th, 2012
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.
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
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
July 3rd, 2011
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
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
June 29th, 2011
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
June 29th, 2011
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
March 2nd, 2011
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
January 30th, 2011
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.
NOM’s rather deceptive anti-Chafee ad
January 12th, 2011
The battle for marriage in Rhode Island has begun and the National Organization for Marriage has rolled out their first ad. Well, the rolled it out and then had to roll it back in because they misspelled Chafee’s name, but it’s back out there again with the correction.
The problem, of course, is that NOM is just about as honest as they ever are. Which is to say, not at all.
They tell us that Chafee only got 36% of the vote and imply that this means that only 36% of Rhode Islanders support marriage equality. But let’s look at the vote totals:
Lincoln D. CHAFEE (IND)…..123,571 36.1%
John F. ROBITAILLE (REP)..114,911 33.6%
Frank T. CAPRIO (DEM)……….78,896 23.0%
Kenneth J. BLOCK (MOD)…….22,146 6.5%
Three Others…………………………..2,799 0.8%
But what NOM doesn’t tell you is that Caprio and Block also ran on a pro-marriage-equality platform and one of t. In fact, two-thirds of Rhode Islanders voted for a candidate that pledged to support same-sex marriage.
They then do something that – if they had the ability to feel shame – would surely give them trouble sleeping. They compare Chafee’s percentage of an three-credible-person race to the results from an entirely different race. To understand how dishonest they are being, you have to have some background.
In the race for Lieutenant Governor (in which Chafee was not a candidate), the Republican nominee pulled out and threw her support to perennial candidate Robert J. Healey, JR., the founder of the Cool Moose Party (a riff on Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party). She said that Healey agreed with her views on smaller government; and indeed Healey ran on a platform of eliminating the office of Lieutenant Governor. While NOM pretends that the Cool Moose is oh-so-amusing, it was actually the not-a-Democrat choice.
In a two-credible-person race with the Democratic candidate Elizabeth Roberts (and one minor party candidate), Republican-endorsed Healey got 39.2% of the vote. And it is that 39% that NOM compares to Chafee’s 36%.
But NOM doesn’t tell you that Liz Roberts, who got 54.5% of the Lieutenant Governor’s vote has endorsed marriage equality and supports Chafee’s efforts.
And they don’t tell you that truthful people, honest people, don’t try to fool you by comparing apples to pineapples. And, if they do, you don’t get to distort the numbers by using big bold completely-bogus graphics.
Because not only can you not compare different races involving different numbers of contestants, but the number of voters who cast a ballot in the Governor’s race was not the same as the number that voted in the Lieutenant Governor’s race. 39% of the Governor’s race is not 39% of the Lieutenant Governor’s race.
In his two-person race, Healey the Cool Moose, got slightly more votes than did Chafee in his three-person race that night; 2,492 to be exact. But that isn’t 3% of the vote like NOM’s graphic pretends.
Now graphics representing the real numbers between the two would have not illustrated NOM’s point very well, so they just used whatever they wanted. In other words, NOM behaved in a completely dishonest manner.
Why are we not surprised?
So here is my challenge to Maggie Gallagher in 2011: Maggie, I’m not going to ask you to stop lying. I’m not going to request that you take up honesty as way of life. All I ask of you now is that you stop pretending that you are on the side of God and righteousness and morality; it offends my Christian faith.
Rhode Island marriage bill introduced
January 6th, 2011
A bill to enact marriage equality in the State of Rhode Island was introduced today in both the House and Senate. (Providence Journal)
In the House, Rep. Arthur Handy, D-Cranston introduced his annual bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island. The 29 lawmakers co-signing the bill include House Speaker Gordon D. Fox.
As she introduced similar legislation in the Senate, Sen. Rhoda Perry, D-Providence, said she hoped it would get a hearing and vote early in the legislative session.
A mirror of Handy’s bill, it legalizes “civil marriage” between people of the same gender to marry, while specifying that no religious institution would be required to marry same-sex couples if that would go against their teachings.
As the House speaker is gay and the governor called for marriage equality in his inaugural address, there is hope that this bill will have adequate support for success. The Senate Majority Leader is opposed to marriage equality, but she has stated that she will not stand in the bill’s way.
The Republican minority has pledged to support civil unions but any legislation allowing the term “marriage” to apply to same-sex unions should be put before the people as a referendum.
Chafee’s inaugural hope
January 4th, 2011
In his inauguration speech today, onetime Republican Senator and newly elected Independent Governor Lincoln Chafee included the following comments:
And I would hope that Rhode Island will catch up to her New England neighbors and pass a bill to establish marriage equality. I urge our general Assembly to quickly consider and adopt this legislation. When marriage equality is the law in Rhode Island, we honor our forefathers who risked their lives and fortune in the pursuit of human equality.