NEW: Gay Marriage Group ‘Extremely Disappointed’ in Fox
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
“Civil unions are unacceptable because they marginalize gay and lesbian couples in very significant ways. The General Assembly will essentially be legalizing a two-class system that subjects thousands of Rhode Island same-sex couples to discrimination. We cannot support legislation that establishes a second class of citizens in Rhode Island,” said Martha Holt, chair of MERI’s board of directors.
In a news release MERI said there are 1,138 federal laws and programs that mention marriage. The group said civil unions would not allow gay couples to benefit from those laws. But in his statement Fox said they wouldn’t anyway because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
MERI said the word “marriage” itself is a protection. People who are married don’t need to “explain themselves” at emergency rooms, schools, and other “bureaucracies.” People with civil unions do, MERI said.
“Civil unions are a compromise for no one. Advocates both for and against marriage equality have clearly expressed their opposition to the half measure of civil unions,” said Holt. “We are extremely disappointed in the lack of leadership at the State House and we would urge Speaker Fox to rethink sponsoring legislation that would create a second class of citizens.”
Reactions from across the state
Also, the only openly gay state senator, Donna Nesselbush, D-Pawtucket, issued a statement saying she should would reluctantly go along with the compromise.
“I am deeply disappointed that this year’s quest for marriage equality appears over. I had looked forward to voting on this important civil rights legislation. However, I reluctantly admit that there simply is not a majority in the Senate who support the bill. While deeply disappointed, I am also a pragmatist: some benefits are better than no benefits. … Accordingly, I will direct my energy in support of the civil unions bill.”
She said she is still holding out hope for gay marriage in the future. “I remain hopeful and have every faith and confidence in my fellow senators, and I know that full marriage equality will come in time. In the meantime, I will work tirelessly and do everything I can for full marriage equality. May we achieve this sooner rather than later.”
Meanwhile, on the House side, some of the most outspoken advocates for gay marriage declined to comment yesterday, including state reps Edith Ajello, D-Providence, and Art Handy, D-Cranston. Both were sponsors of the gay marriage legislation—along with Fox.
Traditional marriage group claims victory
But not everyone was disappointed with the decision. One, the state chapter of the National Organization for Marriage, claimed victory for its side of the fight.
“Against long odds, and the prevailing opinion of most pundits, the people of Rhode Island stood up and protected marriage and family,” said Christopher Plante, Executive Director of NOM-RI.
He added: “Defeating the Governor’s number two priority, and the claims from same-sex marriage supporters of ‘inevitability and victory’ since January, today’s announcement is a huge success that demonstrates the power of NOM-RI’s grassroots campaign. The voters of Rhode Island have spoken and their Representatives and Senators have listened – Rhode Islanders believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
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