RI governor vetoes bill to allow domestic partners to plan each other’s funeral

by Joe Siegel

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday November 10, 2009

Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri vetoed a bill on Tuesday that would have added domestic partners to the list of people authorized under state law to make funeral arrangements for each other.

"This bill represents a distributing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage, which is not the preferred way to approach this issue," the Republican who has been a vocal opponent of marriage for same-sex couples said. "If the General Assembly believes it would like to address the issue of domestic partnerships, it should place the issue on the ballot and let the people of the state of Rhode Island decide."

The bill, as written, would add "domestic partners'" to the list, in current law, of people who can legally make arrangements for a deceased person's funeral, cremation or burial to include domestic partners if the deceased person left no pre-arranged funeral contract.

According to the bill's sponsors, the proposed legislation is designed to provide rights to domestic partners regardless of whether they are of the same or opposite sexes.

State Rep. David Segal (D-Providence) said the bill "would have let domestic partners claim the bodies of their deceased partners, and arrange funerals for them."

"This bitter, cruel, pathetic man is grossly unworthy of the esteem the people of Rhode Island have bestowed upon him."

Segal noted the funeral planning bill was supported by the overwhelming majority of members of the Assembly who oppose marriage for gays and lesbians It passed by a vote of 63-1. And Segal expressed outrage over Carcieri's veto.

"This bitter, cruel, pathetic man is grossly unworthy of the esteem the people of Rhode Island have bestowed upon him," Segal wrote in a blog post on Rhode Island's Future.

Carcieri has a contentious history with Rhode Island's LGBT activists. The Governor was widely condemned for his appearance at a Massachusetts Family Institute fundraiser last month. The governor told the 300 attendees he believed marriage was "not a civil right."

"I get aggravated when it is portrayed that way," Carcieri said at the event. "Marriage is a license by the state. It is about a state's responsibility, which is the reason why states don't allow a lot of types of marriages."

A statement on MFI's Web site describes homosexuality as "an unhealthy practice and destructive to individuals, families and society." The organization also maintains gays and lesbians can be cured through prayer.

Carcieri's term expires in Jan. 2011. Two of those who seek to succeed him--Attorney General Patrick Lynch and former U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee--support nuptials for same-sex couples. House Speaker William Murphy (D-West Warwick,) who opposes gay marriage, has announced he will resign after next year's election. And pundits maintain openly gay House Majority Leader Gordon Fox (D-Providence) will succeed him.

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

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