Why Have Only 9 Gay Couples Gotten “Civil Unionized” In Rhode Island?

On July 2nd, 2011 Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee signed a civil unions bill extending “reciprocal benefits” to same-sex couples including new state tax breaks, health-care benefits and inheritance rights. But even still only nine gay couples have signed up for civil unions during the month of July. Compare that to the hundreds of gay couples that got married in New York as soon as it became available. What’s goin’ on in the Ocean State?

You may remember that in the bitter battle to pass civil unions legislation in Rhode Island earlier this year, that lawmakers scored a lukewarm compromise by offering kinda-sorta not-full civil unions that even mothers and sons could legally enter into. The gay side got to claim a symbolic victory and the anti-gay side got to stop full civil unions which they see as a “Trojan Horse” for gay marriage.

According to Dawn Euer, a spokeswoman for Marriage Equality Rhode Island, “If it had been marriage people would have been lining up. People are holding out for marriage. They want true equality, not a made-up, bureaucratic, second-class status.”

But Democratic Representative Peter Petrarca says that we need more than just one month to know just how many couples will partake.

Bill Fischer with Marriage Equality Rhode Island elaborated on just how little the bill does:

“Reciprocal benefits would provide same-sex couples with approximately 15 rights, [while civil unions 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.”

It’s true that Rhode Island has suck-tastic civil unions. In fact, Illinois, New Jersey, Hawaii and Delaware all have civil union laws that offer more rights than the Rhode Island compromise. That fishy smell in the Ocean State, isn’t the coastline, folks.

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  • Mike in Asheville

    [Note: In New Jersey, Civil Unions have, except for the word “marriage”, the exact same rights and responsibilities as marriages.]

    While RI civil unions create a second class status for g+l, and no one should settle for that second class status, in the meantime, gay and lesbian couples should not miss out on the benefits offered by civil unions. Yes, it sucks; but why allow the government and the bigots keep couples from, at the very least, enjoying the rights to tax and inheritance benefits and other benefits offered to them?

    When NJ offered civil unions, my hubby was working in the state. Because our California Domestic Partnership was accepted by NJ, I, who have been HIV+ for 20+ years and w/o health insurance, then, for 2 years, was, by law, automatically eligible to be added to my hubby’s employer’s health insurance program. We had to fight to it, lots of angry phone calls to the insurance company and a nasty letter from our attorney, but I did get health insurance coverage.

    DO NOT DENY YOURSELF THOSE RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES; when full marriage comes, you will gain additional benefits.

  • PTBoat

    If one is married in one of the states that are close to RI, one is already civil unionized. This might have a great impact on the number of people who participate directly.

  • mrbill

    Most of the gays in RI got hitched in MA years back :-)

  • mike

    why sign up to ride in the back of the bus?

  • The crustybastard

    Civil unions aren’t for gay people.

    They’re for guilty bigots.

  • Andrew

    @PTBoat – One of the other ridiculous aspects of the civil union law here in RI is that, even if you have a civil union or marriage from another state, it’s not recognized here. You need to have a RI civil union instead. I’m so glad that my brothers and sisters aren’t utilizing this second-class status law.

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