Rhode Island marriage advocates look to 2011

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday May 7, 2009

Although the prospects of marriage for same-sex couples becoming legal in Rhode Island this year appear slim, advocates hold out hope legislation will become law once Gov. Don Carcieri's successor takes office in 2011.

Carcieri, a Republican, has been a vocal opponent of nuptials for gays and lesbians. He and his wife, Sue, gave their support to the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage at a press conference at the State House last month.

Kathy Kushnir, the executive director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, said even if the legislature passed a marriage bill, there would not be enough votes to override a threatened Carcieri veto. This would require three-fifths support from both the House and the Senate. Kushnir said there is strong support for the bill in the House, but not in the Senate.

Lieutenant Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, Attorney General Patrick Lynch and state Treasurer Frank Caprio, all Democrats, have expressed their intentions to campaign for governor in next year's elections. And former U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee intends to run as an Independent.

Perhaps sensing that the state was coming ever closer to passing a marriage bill, opponents have ramped up their rhetoric in the media.

NOM executive director Christopher Plante dismissed marriage for same-sex couples as a "radical social experiment" in a letter published in the Providence Journal last Sunday. Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence also warned of what he described as the consequences of allowing gays and lesbians to marry in a heavily Roman Catholic state in an article published in the Rhode Island Catholic.

"Gay marriage, or civil unions, would mean that our state is in the business of ratifying, approving such immoral activity," Tobin wrote. "The fact that Rhode Island has successfully avoided the gay marriage phenomenon is a credit to our governor, the speaker of the House and the President of the senate. They - along with a number of other legislative leaders - have been consistent and courageous in deflecting the onslaught of gay activists and in upholding the traditional definition of marriage. We hope and pray they'll continue to do so,"

MERI has been holding town hall meetings throughout the state during the past month. Bell Street Chapel in Providence was the site of a meeting on Tuesday.

Kushnir and Joyce Anderle, chair of the MERI Education Fund, were on hand to answer questions from participants about how the fight for marriage for same-sex couples was progressing in the state. Kushnir declined to comment on specifics of the meeting, but her organization recently unveiled a new Web site .

MERI also plans to hold a "Day of Decision" rally to respond the California Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of Proposition 8, which is due to happen before June 3.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.


  • , 2009-05-07 14:05:12

    The main hurdle to gay marriage in RI has never been the Governor, it’s the legislature (nearly all Democrats). Anyone who thinks that electing a Democratic governor will change things is fooling themselves. If the House were on board, it could happen today; no reason to wait. If the House doesn’t get on board, waiting until 2011 won’t help because no one will vote against the Democratic incumbents.

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