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Marriage Equality Activists Rally Against Civil Unions in Rhode Island as New Bill is Introduced

Activists angry at House Speaker Gordon Fox's decision to drop marriage equality legislation and the shift the focus to civil unions rallied outside the Rhode Island state house yesterday, the Providence Journal reports:


Gay marriages supporters were nonetheless displeased with what they saw as a sign of betrayal and political cowardice.

“This legislation codifies the idea that lesbian and gay families can be treated differently,” said Martha Holt, chair of Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI), which organized the event.

“Separate is never equal, we are not second class citizens and we demand to be treated equally,” Holt declared. She concluded by making a call for continued political activism, asserting that “MERI isn’t going anywhere,” and that they plan to organize “in every district and county of this state,” until the next election cycle comes around.

In a letter to colleagues, Fox said the decision was one of pragmatism.

Despite the protests, a civil unions bill was introduced on Tuesday by Rep. Peter J. Petrarca

Calling his bill an important first step, the Lincoln Democrat said the legislation — while falling short of legalized same-sex marriage — would give same-sex couples the same rights that married couples now have under Rhode Island law.

“Some sort of progress is better than nothing,” he said just minutes before the House session got under way.

Watch a reports from ABC6, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. Was not "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" some sort of progress as well? Look how long it took to advance from that absurd rational.

    Full Marriage rights or nothing!

    Posted by: Patrick | May 4, 2011 8:17:38 AM

  2. Its nice to know people still refuse to study history. As unpleasant as it is to accept, historically most groups have received their rights in piecemeal fashion—not with a single swipe of the pen. Blacks in this country were first considered nothing but property, then considered 5/8ths of a man, then given the vote and then slowly legislation throughout the 20th century removed the final barriers against equality. Women also won their rights bit by bit. It sounds high-and-mighty to say "full marriage equality or bust," but if we'd accepted civil unions and then kept working for marriage rights, we'd be further along now. Put aside your pride and do the hard work, people!

    Posted by: dizzy spins | May 4, 2011 8:48:53 AM

  3. Dizzy, I could agree with you if not for the fact that several states already have full marriage rights for gay couples. For the citizens of Rhode Island to accept anything less would be foolish. Especially in the state of Rhode Island which 3 out of 5 of it's sister states in New England have full marriage rights for its gay citizens.

    Posted by: Patrick | May 4, 2011 9:33:02 AM

  4. Correction: 4 out of 5 of Rhode Island's sister New England states have full gay marriage rights.

    Posted by: Patrick | May 4, 2011 9:58:59 AM

  5. Washington State has chosen the incremental approach, which has worked well, except for the impatient (which is understandable). We have now have marriage equality except for the word marriage. That will likely change in next year's legislative session.

    We all want marriage equality, but pragmatism is not necessarily a bad thing. Do you (1) want to wait and have no marriage rights until a marriage equality law can be passed; or (2) take an incremental approach with the same goal in mind.

    This is reminiscent of the ENDA debate from a year (or two?) ago, where the bill was killed because there wasn't enough political support to include transgendered individuals. They should be included - I think we all agree on that. However, an alternative approach would have been to pass the legislation giving gays and lesbians protections, then amending it in a year or two when adding transgendered protections would have been doable. Instead, we have, today, no protections.

    Just food for thought...

    Posted by: jaymax | May 4, 2011 10:24:19 AM

  6. Dizzy Spins, stop thinking you're looking at 'history', and look north to Canada. I'm just saying....

    Every time a State tries to push for Civil Unions, they are met with the same blocking wall of opposition from Conservatives.

    All of that "we just have a problem with the word MARRIAGE" nonsense is just ridiculous, as Civil Unions have been fought against every step of the way. Why? Why fight them if it's not marriage? Because Conservatives don't actually care about the word, the tradition, the whatever: they simply don't want to see LGBT people legitimized in any way.

    SO push for marriage, full marriage. All the way.


    Posted by: Little Kiwi | May 4, 2011 10:57:37 AM

  7. Looking back at history should show that America is just plain slow to accept progress.

    Slow to give up slavery, slow to give up segregation, and now once again slow to give up government-sanctioned anti-gay bigotry.

    Rather than looking at the past and saying "oh, it's ALWAYS slow" look at the past, and how it's always been slow, and do something to change that shameful reality.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | May 4, 2011 10:59:37 AM

  8. Call me unpopular, but I do contend that the "full-marriage or nothing" folks likely have very little at stake in this debate. Folks who actually DO NEED protections and recognition would likely accept civil unions as part of a process towards legal same-sex marriage.

    Posted by: david kaufman | May 4, 2011 11:00:16 AM

  9. It's likely neither will pass in the Senate in RI. That's really the issue. Gordon Fox is looking for a successful yes vote in the House for his own political coffers. Everyone knows the bill is a smokescreen, which is why we protested.

    Posted by: Peter | May 4, 2011 12:11:58 PM

  10. @Jaymax - There's a difference between incremental progress, and throwing our transgender friends under the bus. I'm okay with civil unions as long as the lgbt community isn't forced to forgo pushing for full marriage equality. Why? Because the gay couple that's been together for 56 years may not have a legislative session or two to wait. The couple with a partner (or a child!) who is battling a chronic illness does not have a legislative session to wait. We need to think of them and swallow the indignity of civil unions (temporarily!) so that everyone can enjoy at least some protections while we fight to win our full dignity and humanity under the law.

    Posted by: JDB | May 4, 2011 12:27:16 PM

  11. @JDB. Thanks. :) The only thing I disagree with is the characterization that we are throwing our transgender friends under the bus. I just don't see it as throwing anyone under the bus. The sad fact is that Congress (both parties) are not willing to grant transgendered folks protection under an ENDA bill. Let's recognize that for what it is, step up our efforts to obtain transgendered protections, but in the meantime get much-needed protections for gays and lesbians.

    Posted by: jaymax | May 4, 2011 12:46:18 PM

  12. It would have been an IMMENSE and IMPoRTANT first step to have had a FEDERAL ENDA law. PERIOD.
    History would have shown that...we let that go. Fine we now have to live with that. And that would really have affected an enormous number of our community who to this day can have no employment protections and can be fired for being gay or lesbian.
    And I'm not even sure if we had ENDA and a transperson was fired they could not sue under sexual orientation at that point?
    Civil "Union" is not EQUALITY please respect yourself enough to demand and fight for FULL Equality as citizens of these United States of America.

    Since I do not live in RI I defer to the citizens who would be affected by this law but I will not accept "Civil Unions" for New York State.

    Posted by: mcNnyc | May 4, 2011 12:54:48 PM

  13. Expecting us to be happy with Civil Unions is like in the 70s when Briggs was literally saying "Why are you mad at me? I'm just trying to get your fired from your jobs, I'm not putting you in prison or trying to have you executed."

    Look at what people in this nation have been beaten down and reduced to: feasting on scraps.


    Don't beg for it.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | May 4, 2011 1:02:28 PM

  14. Little Kiwi, both sides are fighting for full equality. The debate is the approach: incremental or all-or-nothing.

    In a FEW states, the all-or-nothing approach has works. In MOST ALL instances, the all-or-nothing approach has failed the GLBT community miserably.

    Please don't equate incremental progress with giving up. They're not the same.

    Posted by: jaymax | May 4, 2011 3:29:42 PM

  15. It's interesting that Democrats in the RI senate have a 29-8 majority and Democrats in the RI house have a 65-10 majority and yet it's difficult to even pass civil union legislation let alone marriage equality. What is the matter with RI Democrats?

    Posted by: KD | May 4, 2011 6:17:40 PM

  16. Then JayMax lets get ENDA done.
    Pass it. Build on it.

    Posted by: mcNnyc | May 4, 2011 7:29:11 PM

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