Group Proposes Referendum on Gay Marriage
Friday, November 12, 2010
“We think it’s bad for Rhode Island to immediately jump into a gay marriage debate when our economy is where it’s at,” said Chris Plante, executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage. He cited a recent news report that the state economy might not get back on its feet until 2015. To Plante, it doesn't make much sense to spend so much energy fighting over gay marriage when the state is in such dire economic straits.
Group prepared for ‘tooth and nail’ fight
The recent election resulted in a highly favorable climate for gay marriage legislation: Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee supports gay marriage and House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is openly gay, has indicated through his spokesman that he might consider such legislation this session. Plante’s group staunchly opposes it and has said it would fight a gay marriage bill “tooth and nail.”
“Am I calling for a truce? No, I’m giving them a way out because they’re the ones gumming up the works,” Plante told GoLocalProv. “People who believe marriage is between a man and a woman are forced to get involved.”
Kathy Kushnir, executive director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, denied that a gay marriage bill would cause the General Assembly to become bogged down in a debate over social issues, citing a recent poll that shows most Rhode Islanders support it. “If the legislators listen to their constituents they would know that they overwhelmingly want them to get it done,” Kushnir said.
(Plante cited three polls that said most Rhode Islanders think gay marriage should be on the ballot. Click here and scroll down to page 2 for more information.)
Civil rights debate
Kushnir added that gay couples cannot afford to wait until 2012, saying it would prolong the harm they experience by not having the same privileges and protections that straight couples have through civil marriage.
She also objected to the idea of leaving the issue up to a popular vote. “In our democracy, we just do not put the rights of minority groups up for a vote by the majority,” she said.
Plante argues that it’s not a matter of civil rights. “There is a right to marry,” he said. He added: "There has never ever ever been a right to marry whoever you want and government has always had a say in that. So it’s not a civil right.”
Plante said he has already lined up state Rep. Jon Brien, D-Woonsocket, to introduce legislation for a gay marriage referendum and he believes he can get 10 to 15 House members to co-sign the measure. He does not yet have a Senate sponsor.
- Gay Marriage Opponents, Supporters Face Off
- LIVE ELECTION UPDATE Gay marriage group working the polls 1:20 PM
- Poll: Most Rhode Islanders Support Gay Marriage
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