I came across these signs while walking home this afternoon. If you can’t quite make it out, it is signs denoting “gay” and “straight” lanes hung from the Atwells Avenue overpass over Route 95. I’m assuming this is a statement on civil unions.
The Bishop and I are share a hometown with a unique dialect, wherein “neb nose” is someone who is butting into another’s business without warrant.
(And let me be very clear that while I disagree wholeheartedly with his position here, I also wholeheartedly support his right to believe, and preach, whatever he likes.) We might both bleed black and gold during football season, but that’s about all we agree on. Here’s his absolutely appalling statement on civil unions, released despite the horrible Corvese Amendment that basically allows religious institutions to ignore civil unions in any context (including making medical decisions at religious hospitals, recognizing parental rights at religious schools, and obtaining housing from a religious shelter). Essentially, this is like passing legislation that allows religious institutions to ignore divorces. Hope you feel good about having your first wife make those end-of-life decisions for you….
I am deeply disappointed that Rhode Island will establish civil unions in our state. The concept of civil unions is a social experiment that promotes an immoral lifestyle, is a mockery of the institution of marriage as designed by God, undermines the well-being of our families, and poses a threat to religious liberty.
In this context it is my obligation to remind Catholics of the teachings of the Church on this matter. First, the Church continues to have respect and love for persons with same-sex attraction; they are indeed children of God and our brothers and sisters in the human family. We pray for their well-being and offer them spiritual guidance and pastoral care. We also extend our love and support to families of homosexual persons who sometimes struggle with this difficult emotional issue.
At the same time, the Church reminds its members that homosexual activity is contrary to the natural law and the will of God and, therefore, is objectively sinful. Persons with same-sex attraction are required to live the Christian virtues of chastity and modesty, as all persons are. The importance of these virtues is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures and in the constant tradition of the Church.
Because civil unions promote an unacceptable lifestyle, undermine the faith of the Church on holy matrimony, and cause scandal and confusion, Catholics may not participate in civil unions. To do so is a very grave violation of the moral law and, thus, seriously sinful. A civil union can never be accepted as a legitimate alternative to matrimony.
Can there be any doubt that Almighty God will, in His own time and way, pass judgment upon our state, its leaders and citizens, for abandoning His commands and embracing public immorality? I encourage Catholics to pray for God’s patience, mercy and forgiveness in these distressing times.
In an email this afternoon, MERI called on their supporters to contact Governor Chafee and urge him to veto the Civil Unions bill:
By now, you’ve heard that the Senate passed a civil union bill last night that included the dangerous and discriminatory Corvese Amendment. That means that if this bill becomes law, private and religiously-affiliated organizations will be allowed to ignore the legal rights of civil union spouses. You know why this bill is bad, you know all about the harm it will bring to thousands of gay and lesbian couples in loving, committed relationships, and you know that it shouldn’t be signed into law.
I need you to call Governor Chafee’s office right now at (401) 222-2080, and tell him to veto H6103 because it includes the discriminatory Corvese amendment. It will only take you about 30 seconds, but trust me, if enough of us raise our voice in opposition to this injustice, it can make a big difference.
Here’s an idea of what to say:
Hi, this is____, from________, and I’m calling to let you know that I want the governor to veto the civil union bill because it includes dangerous and discriminatory language that will hurt thousands of gay and lesbian couples and families. Thank you.
Pretty easy, right? Now, go do it! Call 222-2080 and speak out against discrimination and intolerance. And when you’re done, send us a note to let us know you made the call and if you received any important feedback.
You may have heard the Civil Union bill is bad because of the “Corvese Amendment.” What is that? It was added to the House version of the Bill by Rep. Arthur Corvese (D – District 55 – North Providence).
The Amendment reads:
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.
So, what does that mean? It could mean that you find yourself stuck down and rushed to Fatima Hospital. Your Civil Unioned Partner (I’m not sure if we’re allowed to use the word spouse) comes to be with you and make decisions on your care. Fatima can say, they do not recognize your partnership and require someone who they recognize as kin to come to make decisions on your behalf. An employee at Providence College could find their partner denied access to spousal health benefits.
Will this happen? Neither Fatima nor Providence College nor any other religious institution has made any announcement of policies regarding their recognition of Civil Unions; but they have every right to do these things and more.
On May 6, 2009 Maine became the first state in the country to pass a marriage bill through its Legislature and have it signed by its Governor. Unfortunately for Mainers, that equal marraige legislation was later overturned at the ballot box by Maine voters.
For the past year and a half, EqualityMaine and GLAD been focused on moving Mainers to be more supportive of marriage for gay and lesbian people. Since March, we’ve had one-on-one conversations with more than 20,000 Mainers about marriage; we’ve already changed a lot of minds and we’re changing more every day.
Now, after extensive conversation and consultation, with you – our members – we are excited to take the next step in the campaign to win marriage for all Mainers.
We intend to ask Mainers at the ballot in November 2012 to support marriage equality – and we believe that Maine people will do so. The process of winning the freedom to marry begins today with the submission of proposed ballot language to the Maine Secretary of State.
Visit Why Marriage Matters Maine’s website to learn how you can support their efforts.
Last night the Rhode Island Senate passed a really problematic Civil Union bill. If you believe that a successful compromise is one that leaves everyone disapponted, it really hit the mark. The bill includes “religious exemption” language that might well set LGBT rights back 15 years in the Biggest Little, allowing religious institutions and individuals with “sincerely held beliefs” to ignore the very relationship status it creates. And because it’s so broad and sweeping, it may allow people to ignore the civil rights laws passed 15 years ago.
I’ve not been a supporter of civil unions for many years. Once Massachusetts, our neighbor state, began allowing same-sex couples to marry in 2004, the game changed. To pass a civil union bill now, in New England, less than a week after New York passed marriage equality legislation, makes us look provincial and stupid. To pass one with such wide reaching religious exemptions that it may actually remove queer folks’ rights to housing, hospital visitation, and funeral planning, well, that’s just wrong.
Context is important here. As I wrote in my testimony against civil unions this year, before the horrible Corvese amendment was added, “here in New England it is absurd to pretend that passing civil union legislation is a step forward for our state.”
Let us consider the following facts:
- Our neighboring states of Massachusetts and Connecticut not only provide the full protection of marriage equality, but they recognize marriage as a constitutionally-guaranteed right (established through their courts) for all couples.
- Four of 5 other New England states celebrate the freedom of all couples to marry
- Rhode Island is unique in not having taken the step to either legalize or outlaw marriages between same-sex spouses. Additionally, out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples have largely been recognized.
- The highest courts of both Massachusetts and Connecticut have ruled clearly that civil unions are not only an insufficient remedy to the unconstitutional exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage, but also that they embody a clear message that gay families aren’t good enough.
Let’s not pretend that civil unions are a fresh answer to a new question. This esteemed committee has debated any number of pieces of legislation related to domestic relations for nearly 15 years. Hundreds of Rhode Island same-sex couples are legally married already, and hundreds more have access to marriage just outside our borders. In this context, it is clearly wrong to create a separate legal class for same-sex couples.
With full marriage equality available to same-sex Rhode Island couples just over the border in any direction, I don’t know why anyone would settle for a civil union. Marriage is a much stronger protection, and with the civil union law so tenuous, if I wanted legal recognition of my relationship, I’d head to Massachusetts or Connecticut.
So what’s next? I don’t know. People are talking about the 2012 election cycle, and I think that’s an important consideration. But I also think we need to find a way to demonstrate the harmful impact of this legislation, hopefully one that doesn’t wait until a civilly unionized couple faces religiously motivated denial of their rights. Maybe a “buy-in”, where we encourage queer Rhode Islanders and their allies to spend money in the “equality states” of Massachusetts or Connecticut? Don’t worry, Jef, I’ll give you a ride.
A series of national polls in recent months show a surge in support for Marriage Equality Nationally:
A first: Majority of Americans now supports same-sex marriage, Gallup finds
Los Angeles Times:
Thanks to a radical shift in thinking among independents and Democrats during the past year, for the first time in Gallup Poll tracking a clear majority of Americans now approves of gay marriage.
A new Gallup Poll released this morning finds that this month 53% of Americans say same-sex marriage should be recognized in law as equally valid with traditional male-female marriages.
The spurt in support of 9% in the past 12 months was the largest registered since Gallup first tracked the topic in 1996. Back then, only 27% supported same-sex marriage and two-thirds opposed.
Support for same-sex marriages had hovered in the low 40’s since about 2004, until the latest figures, showing 59% of independents and 69% of Democrats now support the idea, while 28% of Republicans do. The GOP figure was unchanged from 2010.
Yet another poll says majority of Americans support gay marriage
The Colorado Indepent:
A poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute on Thursday confirmed what several other national pollsters have found: A majority of Americans now support marriage rights for same-sex couples. The poll found that 51 percent of Americans supported legalizing gay marriage compared to 43 who opposed legalization.
Slim majority back gay marriage, Post-ABC poll says
Five years ago, at 36 percent, support for gay marriage barely topped a third of all Americans. Now, 53 percent say gay marriage should be legal, marking the first time in Post-ABC polling that a majority has said so.
Poll: Majority supports gay marriage
Of those surveyed for a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll [.pdf], 51 percent said they think marriages between lesbian and gay couples should be recognized as legal and come with the same rights as heterosexual unions, while 47 percent said the marriages should not be recognized.
The last time CNN asked the question, in April 2009, approval for gay marriage was at 44 percent and disapproval was at 54 percent.
- Rhode Island Tip Sheet: The parallelism of civil unions
Ian Donnis | WRNI | May 20, 2011
- R.I. House approves civil unions
Randal Edgar | The Providence Journal | May 20, 2011
- R.I. House Passes Civil Unions Bill
AP/ABC6 Video | ABC6 | May 20, 2011
- R.I. House endorses civil unions for same-sex couples
AP/WJAR Video | WJAR | May 20, 2011
- BREAKING NEWS: House Passes Controversial Civil Unions Bill
GoLocalProv | May 19, 2011
GLAD Press Release:
May 20, 2011
When Rhode Island’s House of Representatives passed H.6103Aaa last night, it passed the most restrictive religious exemption attached to any civil union or marriage bill in the country, according to Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). The bill’s language on reciprocity also creates arbitrary distinctions between the different forms of spousal protections for same-sex couples, causing continued uncertainty for legally married couples in the state. Beyond the inherent inequalities embodied by a civil union scheme, even the promise of comprehensive protections offered by this bill is seriously undercut by these provisions.
Everyone agrees that religious denominations should not be required to join any two people in any legal relationship – whether marriage or a civil union – that is contrary to their religious teachings. However, the religious exemption amendment goes much further in allowing religious charitable and educational organizations – such as social service providers, hospitals, and educational institutions – to treat legal civil unions, authorized under Rhode Island law, as invalid for any purpose.
Karen Loewy, Senior Staff Attorney for GLAD, said “This unprecedented exemption means a civil union spouse could be denied the ability to make medical decisions for her spouse in a hospital; it means that a math teacher at a religiously-based school could not get the same health insurance for his legally recognized partner that all other teachers receive. This exemption actually diminishes nondiscrimination protections in public accommodations and employment that Rhode Island employers and institutions have successfully lived with since 1995. It just inflicts gratuitous harm on Rhode Island’s gay and lesbian families.”
In addition, the bill’s silence on the situation of Rhode Island’s many married same-sex couples just perpetuates the inconsistent treatment those couples receive and creates a bizarre double standard between married couples and couples with civil unions. “Because Rhode Island is bordered by marriage states, many same-sex couples here are already married,” said Loewy. “The bill’s silence leaves intact the application of established marriage recognition law to their legal commitments. But it also gives an excuse to employers, government entities, and others who want to ignore their marriages, and provides more protection for couples in civil unions than exist for married couples.”
One such situation, said Loewy, is that of married couples who seek divorce. Civil union spouses would be able to dissolve their unions in Rhode Island, while married couples could not. “This is a seriously flawed bill,” said Loewy. “If it is not fixed in the Senate, there is trouble ahead for Rhode Island’s same-sex couples.”
GLAD remains committed to working for full marriage equality for Rhode Island’s same-sex couples.
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is New England’s leading legal organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression.
Testimony from both sides of the Civil Union debate in the Rhode Island Assembly. Includes Rep. Frank Ferri’s testimony (at about the 1:30 mark).
If video will not play, visit ProJo.