Jul 6, 2011
Poor Rhode Island.
New York passes marriage equality at the eleventh hour on the eve of New York City's gay pride parade, one of the largest such parades in the country, and the whole LGBT community* goes wild with praise for Governor Andrew Cuomo and for heroic members of the state assembly. A few days later, little Rhode Island approves civil unions for gay couples, and hardly anybody even notices.
True, Governor Lincoln Chafee supports actual marriage equality. (That's who's signing the bill in the cartoon. I'm not sure that he wears bow ties; he just looks like a bow tie kind of guy.) A marriage equality bill which Chafee supported died in the Rhode Island legislature in April.
But neither supporters of marriage equality nor those demanding opposite-sex marriage exclusivity -- no, for that matter, the Governor -- consider the matter settled in Rhode Island:
Many gay marriage supporters criticized civil unions as discriminatory. In particular, MERI [Marriage Equality-Rhode Island] opposed language in the new law that allows religious hospitals, cemeteries and schools to refuse to recognize the rights granted through civil unions. Sullivan said his group will urge lawmakers to repeal the religious exemption.
Chafee, who called on lawmakers to approve gay marriage in January, called civil unions a 'foundation' for further efforts to allow same-sex couples to wed.
Groups on the other side of the debate aren’t going away either. The National Organization for Marriage-Rhode Island will urge lawmakers next year to specifically outlaw gay marriage by defining it legally as being between a man and a woman, according to executive director Chris Plante.
In the meantime, let's raise a glass of Champale and a cheer and a half for Civil Unions in Rhode Island. Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hi.
* Minus GOProud, which really doesn't give a rat's ass about LGBT issues.