Rhode Island Civil Unions Bill is Flawed and Discriminatory
June 28, 2011 by Tony Wagner, Western Regional Field Director
The Rhode Island Senate is set to vote on and pass a Civil Unions bill (HB 6103) tomorrow, June 29th. The current bill now before the legislature would create discriminatory hurdles for same-sex couples that no other state has ever put in place. Many states have sought to secure equality for same-sex couples while vigilantly maintaining religious liberty protections, but the religious exemption language in Rhode Island goes too far.
In the recent debate in New York, the legislature struck the right balance, ending discrimination against same-sex couples in civil marriage, while reaffirming that clergy and religious entities remain free not to solemnize any wedding they do not wish to. The Rhode Island bill, however, goes far beyond this limited and reasonable assurance to allow religious organizations and their individual employees to completely disregard the validity of a civil union in any context.
In practical terms, this law would allow religiously affiliated hospitals to deny a civil union spouse's right to be by their spouse's side and make medical decisions for them, and would allow religiously affiliated agencies to deny an employee's right to leave in order to care for their civil union spouse under Rhode Island Family and Medical Leave.
This is why HRC and Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) are opposed to this Civil Unions bill, and why we ask that residents of Rhode Island join us in sending a message to Gov. Chafee and the state legislature that this bill is not acceptable.
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