reject pile

If NOM Supports Rhode Island’s Civil Unions Bill, You Know It’s Something Terrible


Not everybody is thrilled with Rhode Island’s crappy civil unions bill that’s being tossed around as an alternative to legalizing marriage. But if gay advocates don’t like this thing and anti-gay groups like NOM do, then you know this thing is awful.

House Bill 5904, as we know, would let gays enter into legal contracts with each other — and would extend the option to, yes, mothers and sons. It was debated at a hearing yesterday before the House Judiciary Committee.

Sponsored by Rep. Peter Petrarca, D-Lincoln, the bill would allow “any two … unmarried persons who are excluded” from marrying under state law to establish “reciprocal beneficiary agreements” that allow their partners to oversee issues such as emergency medical care, medical decisions and decisions on “the disposition” of a person’s remains. Petrarca, describing himself as a supporter of gay marriage, said he sponsored the bill to provide at least some rights to same-sex couples should gay-marriage legislation not pass. “At least there’s something on the table that makes them somewhat equal,” he said. “The intent is to have everything on the table, civil unions, reciprocal benefits, gay marriage.”

Except the state’s leading gadvocates hate this thing.

Marriage Equality Rhode Island, a gay advocacy group, did not attend the hearing and is “not supporting the bill” because it stops short of legalizing same-sex marriage, said its spokesman, Bill Fischer. “Reciprocal benefits would provide same-sex couples with approximately 15 rights,” he said, while civil unions would provide same-sex couples “with about 600 rights, and full marriage equality with about 1,700 rights, so there is a real distinction.” “We respect the legislative sponsor’s intent here, but the further we go down the road trying to address this issue by issue, the further we are creating two classes of citizens in Rhode Island,” Fischer said.

Only slightly surprisingly, our opponents feel otherwise.

The Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage, a traditional marriage-advocacy group, supports the bill, said its executive director, Christopher Plante. “We don’t oppose it. We think that it’s a good way to try to address some of those issues that gays and lesbians, and not only gays and lesbians, have when they try to assign rights to significant others,” said Plante, who also did not attend the hearing.