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NEW: Bishop Tobin Calls for Defeat of Civil Unions

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, issued a statement today urging lawmakers to vote down legislation that would allow for civil unions in Rhode Island.

Late last month, House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President Teresa Pavia Weed dropped the prospect of passing a full-fledged gay marriage bill on pragmatic grounds—recognizing improbability of pushing such legislation through the senate—and came out in support of a civil unions bill instead.

In his statement, Tobin labeled the bill as an “unpopular and last minute attempt at a compromise that satisfies no one and accomplishes little.” Tobin contended that passage of the law would only further “divisive debate,” not resolve it.

“The civil unions legislation under consideration has no protection for freedom of conscience or religious practice for individuals or institutions who oppose this challenge to traditional moral values,” said Tobin, who then asserted that “the legislation itself is discriminatory since it provides certain legal rights only to those in same-sex relationships that mimic marriage while ignoring the needs of many other Rhode Islanders.”

As an alternative, Tobin encouraged lawmakers to consider “reciprocal benefits legislation,” which he felt would provide same-sex as well as non-same sex couples with crucial benefits “without reference to marriage and without compromising the traditional understanding of marriage and family in our society.” Such legislation has existed in places like Hawaii and covers not only same-sex couples, but also inter-family relationships—such as siblings who desire the legal right to make medical decisions for one another.

A House floor vote on the bill is scheduled for this Thursday.

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