Chafee signs civil unions

Timothy Kincaid

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.

Lindoro Almaviva

July 3rd, 2011

I think it is time we stop expecting the legislatures to provide justice for us. This law is obviously flawed and highly unjust in its broad call for anyone with a chip on their shoulder to ignore it.

Time to have the courts weigh in…

Tony P

July 3rd, 2011

Agree with Lindoro, the courts are going to have to mop this one up. As it stand I expect a legal challenge to the Civil Unions law by the fall.

It just sets up a separate class of people and that never flies under constitutional review.


July 3rd, 2011

I will agree with you Timothy if, and ONLY if, Chaffee and the Democrats in the legislature begin, immediately, to rectify the injustice in the passed law.


July 3rd, 2011

Bring on the lawsuits. I’m sure the courts will strike down the overly broad religious exemptions as soon as someone sues a bed and breakfast. Or maybe they can just sue for marriage. The state surely can’t rationalize not giving rights to gay people now that they have civil unions.

Ben In Oakland

July 3rd, 2011

I’ll tell you what civil unions are.

They are a recognitio­n by semi-consc­ious people that gay people exist and do not deserve persecutio­n or oppression­, though they will be considered to be 3/5 of a heterosexu­al for legal purposes.

They are an admission by fair-minded people that we have a claim on the heterosexu­al majority, a claim that is legal, moral, Constituti­onal, ethical, religious, compassion­ate, fair, benign, and humane…

But they will be goddam-go-­to-hell if they will ever admit that they just truly think Civil unions are good enough for the likes of us, though what is good enough for us they would not dream of accepting for themselves­.

They are an assertion that we have civil rights, are entitled to respect as adults and citizens, that we have families, lives, children, and faiths that deserve the legal protection of marriage…

But they cannot let go of their totally unwarrante­d belief in the wholly imaginary superiorit­y of heterosexu­als over homosexual­s, because the noblest homosexual is by nature and religious decree far worse a human being than the slimiest of child abusi­ng, murderous, divorcing, adulterous heterosexu­als.

They are a semi-apology by thoughtful people that gay people have been the victims of a 1700-year-­jihad entailing lies, persecutio­n, vilificati­on, torture, imprisonme­nt, death, demonizati­on, prejudice, hate, and fear…

And that maybe, this isn’t the best way to treat human beings whose crime is that they are different in some small, irrelevant way from the majority.

Does that sum it up for you?


July 3rd, 2011

@Ben I don’t know if you wrote that, but I’m copying it. Thank you

Timothy Kincaid

July 3rd, 2011


I’m disappointed in the Democrats in RI (and Maryland) but Chafee made this a campaign issue which he ran on when there was no real reason to. I think that, like Cuomo, he sees it as part of his legacy. He’ll not let it go.


July 4th, 2011

Rhode Island has a constitutional amendment process. Proposed amendments have to get through the legislature (50%+1 each chamber iirc) and then pass a public referendum (50%+1).

If public support for gay marriage is 54% or so, then the RI legislature can duck responsibility by letting a gay marriage legalizing constitutional amendment go to the voters.

Ben in Oakland

July 4th, 2011

Idid write it. Thanks.


July 4th, 2011

Chafee did note when he signed this bill that it is not over and he fully intends to continue the fight. A big part of the problem is that the Catholic Church dominates this state and its propaganda has a great deal of influence.


July 4th, 2011

If Rhode Island already recognizes marriage in other states, then isn’t this civil unions bill wholly, wholly, wholly unnecessary?

Timothy Kincaid

July 5th, 2011


The recognition is theoretical rather than actual. Although the Attorney General gave his opinion, that has no bearing on the courts. While a same-sex couple could hope that their Massachusetts marriage will be honored, without this civil unions law they have no means of being sure that they will have any recognition whatsoever.

Mark F.

July 6th, 2011

“They are a recognitio­n by semi-consc­ious people that gay people exist and do not deserve persecutio­n or oppression­, though they will be considered to be 3/5 of a heterosexu­al for legal purposes.”

Ben, it was the slaveholders who wanted black slaves to be counted as a full person for purposes of congressional representation only (not for any other purpose) so that the slave states would have more political influence. The non-slave states didn’t want slaves to be counted at all for congressional representation. The 3/5ths of a person provision in the U.S. Constitution was a compromise which did not impact any other laws re: slaves.


July 6th, 2011


Thanks for the info. I thought there was more formal recognition for out-of-state marriages.

@Mark F.

What you say is true, but the “three-fifths” rule still represents compromise, a noble thing when it comes to legislation but a disgusting thing when it comes to civil rights.

Ben In Oakland

July 6th, 2011

JFE–what you said.

Mark– what JFE said. My 3/5 was supposed to be a sarcasm, not a reflection of history.

Mark F.

July 6th, 2011

OK, but it’s a common misconception that the “bad guys” wanted slaves counted as 3/5ths of a person.


July 7th, 2011

Mark F.–Agreed.

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