Until the (temporary) disappointment of Prop 1 in Maine, it seemed that Rhode Island was the only stumbling bock on the way to the New England marriage equality goal of “6 by 12” (all six NE states by 2012) – and the reason for that was the intransigence of the Democratic governor, egged on by the Catholic Church. Now, with an important vote today, the state legislature has clearly signaled that they support the recognition of same sex partner benefits, by overriding an earlier governor’s callous veto on legislation to grant burial rights to surviving same sex partners.
As suggested by the column below from Huffpost, the veto may have harmed the cause of Maggie Gallagher and NAM (National organisation Against Marriage) by demonstrating that opposition to same sex couples is indeed rooted in bigotry without simple Christian compassion, for all the claims of Biblical or Christian motives. The veto will further weaken the opposition side. Maine will reverse last November’s decision. If I were a betting man, I would still put money on Marriage Equality reaching the NE target of “6 by 12”.
In November, Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri made a move that surprised even his harshest critics — my membership dues to that club being current — by vetoing legislation that would have permitted domestic partners to claim each others’ remains and plan each others’ funerals.
State Senator Rhoda Perry and I sponsored the bill at the behest of our constituent, Mark Goldberg, whose partner’s body went unclaimed for nearly a month in late 2008. (It’s not gratuitous to mention that Goldberg’s partner of 17 years had claimed his own life, for it makes clear just how flagrantly unconscionable were Carcieri’s actions.)
But with a majority or near majority of Rhode Islanders supporting gay marriage, and with only one member of the legislature voting against the measure (the veto override) — and therefore with dozens of opponents of marriage equality voting in favor of it — the maneuver amounted to a self-inflicted gubernatorial face-plant.
The backlash was swift and sharp: When pressed on the matter, even the chair of the state GOP declined to support Carcieri. The governor’s been quick to make the rounds on cable news in support of his anti-immigrant agenda or his fiscal austerity measures, but it wasn’t until the revelation of his fear of the “gay death-style” that his mug landed on the Colbert Report.
Also see the New York Times:
RI Lawmakers Back Funeral Rights for Gays
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island lawmakers voted Tuesday to allow same-sex and unmarried couples the right to plan the funerals of their late partners, overriding a veto by the governor, who warned it eroded traditional marriage.
The bill passed 67-3 in the House and 31-3 in the Senate, and enjoyed support from several Republican lawmakers, who in the same party as Gov. Don Carcieri, an adamant opponent of same-sex marriage in a state that does not recognize gay unions.
The new funeral planning rights also apply to unmarried heterosexual couples.
Mark Goldberg, 49, pushed for the legislation after struggling for five weeks to claim the body of his partner of 17 years, Ron Hanby, who committed suicide in October 2008. The state medical examiner would not release Hanby’s body to Goldberg because they were not married or relatives, even though the couple had wills and other legal documents attesting to their relationship.
”Not being able to claim his body was certainly something that was beyond belief, was beyond human compassion from anyone,” Goldberg said. ”There was just no compassion whatsoever from anyone in the state.”