R.I. House Passes Civil Unions Bill

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com May 20 2011 7:45 AM ET

The Rhode Island house of representatives passed a bill Thursday that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, which now moves to the senate for approval.

The Providence Journal reports on the 62 to 11 vote, a nod of bipartisan support for a measure that antigay groups decried as opening the door to marriage and some equality advocates dismissed as settling for second-class status.

“The civil-unions bill — opposed by hundreds who came out to testify last week and thousands, according to one lawmaker’s count, who signed petitions — did indeed pass in the House, with a vote that cut across party lines, even as it left lawmakers at odds over where the issue goes from here and what people in Rhode Island really want,” reports the Journal.

Among the floor amendments not voted on was a proposal from Rep. Arthur Handy to change the bill to allow same-sex marriages and provide protections for opposed clergy and religious institutions. It was decided that the measure broke house rules that say a floor amendment cannot alter an entire bill.

The bill now heads to the senate. Senate president M. Teresa Paiva Weed supports the civil unions proposal, but she opposed the marriage equality legislation.