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R.I. Senate Passes Contentious Civil Unions Bill

R.I. Senate Passes Contentious Civil Unions Bill

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With broad exemptions for religious organizations included, the Rhode Island Senate passed a civil unions bill Wednesday and sent it to the governor's desk.

The legislation passed 21-16; the state House passed a companion bill in May, and it's widely believed Rhode Island's independent governor, Lincoln Chafee, will soon sign civil unions into law. But many gay Rhode Islanders aren't pleased -- many in this New England state have long been gunning for marriage equality, and many also believe that the wording of the civil unions legislation leaves the door open for discrimination against gay couples. The bill's added language, called the Corvese provisions for author Rep. Arthur Corvese, would allow religious organizations to disregard gay couples -- for instance, a Catholic-affiliated school could deny partner benefits to a gay employee if administrators saw fit. The group Marriage Equality Rhode Island has called on Chafee to veto the bill.

"We were hoping the Senate would do the right thing and take off the Corvese provisions -- we did an extensive amount of education about the detrimental effect they would have," Ray Sullivan, campaign director for Marriage Equality Rhode Island, told The Advocate. "We were very pleased that a number of senators spoke out in committee and on the floor and recognized the discriminatory elements of the bill. Of course, not everyone voted against it for the right reasons -- some voted against the bill because they simply don't believe in equal rights for gay couples."

It's not clear when Chafee will make his decision on the bill.

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Neal Broverman

Neal Broverman is the Editorial Director, Print of Pride Media, publishers of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, and Plus, spending more than 20 years in journalism. He indulges his interest in transportation and urban planning with regular contributions to Los Angeles magazine, and his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He lives in the City of Angels with his husband, children, and their chiweenie.
Neal Broverman is the Editorial Director, Print of Pride Media, publishers of The Advocate, Out, Out Traveler, and Plus, spending more than 20 years in journalism. He indulges his interest in transportation and urban planning with regular contributions to Los Angeles magazine, and his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. He lives in the City of Angels with his husband, children, and their chiweenie.