MERI: Same-Sex Couples Will Legally Marry in R.I. Within Two Years
Will same-sex couples be able to legally marry in the Ocean State in 2012?
Marriage Equality Rhode Island will continue their efforts to pass a marriage equality bill when the state’s General Assembly reconvenes next month. Ray Sullivan, campaign director for MERI, told EDGE he expects marriage equality will come to the Ocean State within an 18-month to 2-year timeframe.
"It’s an issue of fundamental fairness and equality," he said.
A marriage equality bill was introduced earlier this year in the House, but gay Speaker Gordon Fox withdrew it in April after he said there were not enough votes for it to pass. Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Newport) opposes marriage for same-sex couples.
Fox supported a civil unions bill that lawmakers passed in late June. Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the measure into law last July.
Sullivan promises a "robust" legislative agenda that includes the repeal of the Corvese amendment attached to the civil union law that state Rep. Arthur Corvese (D-North Providence) introduced. The amendment allows religiously-affiliated hospitals, schools and other institutions to ignore the legal standing of a civil union spouse.
The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has condemned the civil unions law, calling it "a complete bust" because it contains broad religious exemptions that undermine "the unions’ value, the availability of marriage equality in all the surrounding states, and 12 years of anticipation for full marriage equality."
Only 39 same-sex couples in the Ocean State have obtained civil unions in the six months the law has been legal.
The General Assembly passed a "discriminatory law which treats same-sex couples as second-class citizens," said Sullivan, noting the Corvese amendment was "dangerous and scary." Not only that, but the civil union law affects same-sex couples who obtained marriages in neighboring Connecticut or Massachusetts. Those couples who number in the hundreds, remain in legal limbo for now.