MERI Seeks Personal Stories to Spur Lawmakers to Back Marriage Equality
Marriage Equality Rhode Island hopes stories from same-sex couples who are unable to legally marry in the Ocean State will convince legislators to support a measure next year that would allow nuptials for gays and lesbians.
MERI, which describes the civil union law that Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed in early July as "terrible," hopes these stories will have a tangible impact on state lawmakers.
"We know that the civil union law raises more questions than answers about how same-sex couples can really protect our families," wrote MERI’s Dawn Euer in a recent blog post. "Between the giant loophole for religious entities, the bill’s silence on how existing marriages will be treated, the inability to ever access federal protections through a civil union, and the very real concern that no one else understands what protections a civil union really provides, same-sex couples are understandably cautious before rushing into this lesser status the general assembly saw fit to establish for LGBT people only."
Euer also points out that many same-sex couples in Rhode Island have already tied the knot out of state.
"Why would those couples want to pay to get their marriage downgraded to an arbitrary second-class status?" she asked.
MERI supporters were quick to echo Euer’s sentiments.
"Civil Unions are nothing more than solidifying the LGBT as second class citizens," wrote Kim Carrier. "It makes our loving committed relationships nothing more than second class status when compared to marriages of opposite sex couples. It is making discrimination legal in the state of Rhode Island."
"My wife and I got married in Provincetown in 2007. We will not step backwards," shared Carol, noting she and her partner Anne have been together for 24 years. "As far as we can see, entering into a civil union will not improve our situation. We have already been thru the trip to the lawyer to collect our "papers." We have been thru a number of hospital trips and have not had to produce the "papers" yet. We believe that if the "papers" ever have to be brought out, they will be inadequate. Anyone who chooses to challenge us as a legal couple will not be deterred by "papers." Our only protection on that day will be a full and equal marriage in the state we live in. When equal marriage is passed, then simply "being" married will be sufficient to open the door. Until then anyone who chooses to close the door will be able to close it and leave us waiting for our lawyer to help us enforce our "papers" and we both know that by then one of us may have passed away without a last kiss."
Only 10 same-sex couples have taken advantage of the state’s civil unions bill since Chafee signed it into law.
In spite of Chafee’s support for marriage equality and polls that showed a majority of Rhode Islanders support the right of gays and lesbians to wed, state legislators instead passed the civil unions bill.
Gay House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence) said there were not enough votes to pass the marriage equality bill-MERI and other groups and LGBT activists blasted him for not pushing for a vote in the House.
Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed (D-Newport) said she supported civil unions but remained opposed to marriage equality. Paiva-Weed had accepted a $500 donation from the National Organization for Marriage. And NOM spent $400,000 in an effort to defeat same-sex marriage.
"Personally, a ’civil union’ seems more like an insult as an institution than anything I’d like to be part of," wrote Peter Deffet on MERI’s blog. "What’s more, legal protections between any same sex spouses are much more likely to stick through power of attorney and such than through a ’civil’ union."