STATE'S RITES

Rhode Island En Route To Upgrading Crappy Civil Unions To Real Gay Marriages

Rhode Island, the smallest state in the nation, is headed for some big marriage-equality goals this year.

Ray Sullivan, the executive director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI), tells Queerty that a gay marriage bill will “absolutely” be introduced into the legislature tomorrow—the last day to introduce bills.

State Rep. Art Hardy and state Sen. Rhoda Perry have told Sullivan they will sponsor the bill. Hardy and Perry are at this very moment collecting signatures and co-sponsorships from other state politicians.

“Governor Lincoln Chafee is also on board and has said he will sign a marriage-equality bill,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan admits that last year’s disastrous civil-unions bill was “fundamentally flawed and discriminatory.”

“The civil unions law was enacted at the relative last waiting days,” says Sullivan, “and fell through due to lack of leadership in the Assembly.”

He says that anti-gay politicians added a so-called Corvese Amendment at the last minute, the “particularly outrageous” language of which allows for any religion-affiliated institution (such as a college or hospital) to choose not to recognize a civil union.

In addition to pushing marriage equality, Sullivan says they’ll try to repeal the Corvese Amendment by pushing the Equal Religious Protection Act. Sullivan says MERI supports common-sense exemptions, like clergy who should not have to perform gay-wedding ceremonies they don’t feel comfortable with.

Lastly, he says they’ve partnered with other organizations to push a hate crimes bill that will protect transgender people.