April 27, 2011

Fox Proposes Civil Unions

Marc Comtois

Ian Donnis broke the story that House Speaker Gordon Fox is throwing his weight behind Civil Union legislation in lieu of a gay marriage bill:

Based on your input, along with the fact that it is now clear to me that there is no realistic chance for passage of the bill in the Senate, I will recommend that the House not move forward with a vote on the marriage equality bill during this legislative session. I will instead support full passage of a civil unions’ bill that grants important and long overdue legal rights to same-sex couples inRhode Island.

I have had conversations with Senate leadership and, unlike the marriage equality bill, I am optimistic that a civil unions’ bill can gain passage in both chambers during this legislative session.

The new civil union bill is currently being drafted and will soon be ready for introduction and public inspection. I will be one of the sponsors.

This has been the pragmatic approach all along and its obvious that Speaker Fox is taking what he can get. Besides the legal considerations granted to gay couples, let's hope that the bill also includes allowances for non-gay couples (siblings, parent/child, friends, etc.).

UPDATE: More from Ian - MERI isn't pleased.

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I am shocked that I was wrong and full marriage will not pass this year. I guess it will have to wait until after the election year, they will just use civil unions as a stepping stone.
Sort of sad that they have to do this and not just give full marriage, but I am sure it will be here in another year or two. That is if they don't pass civil unions and then use some "activist judge" to get the full boat.
lol :)

Posted by: Swazool at April 27, 2011 1:59 PM

Funny how Fox and Paiva-Weed don't have the courage to fight for same-sex marriage, but they're willing to go to the mattresses for those ridiculous raises they gave their staffers.
Maybe they're hoping by kissing the right's ring that the right will forget those raises to the Chosen (which any responsible liberal would find equally reprehensible). Don't buy it. I sure don't.
May Fox and Paiva-Weed go the way of Mubarak and the fellow in Tunisia.

Posted by: bella at April 27, 2011 3:14 PM

"Maybe they're hoping by kissing the right's ring"

Heh, "the right"? Who the heck is "the right"? All 10 out of 110 of them? Who is this "right wing" you speak of? There's none that can put up any fight in the state house. Is it their constituents? I always hear how liberal Rhode Island is, so that can't be it. What/who are they afraid of?

Posted by: Patrick at April 27, 2011 4:05 PM

The Dems have enough votes to get any routine corrupt business through the GA that they want.

The public resistance on this issue must have overwhelmed them. That would be consistent with other extreme Left states including California. Even the machine politicians can only go so far before the public speaks up. And on this issue it seems the public is speaking.

Posted by: BobN at April 27, 2011 4:12 PM

I am afraid that I regard "gay marriage" as simply a shibboleth to identify progressives. It may also indicate how low the opinion of marriage has fallen. In the public mind, it is as nothing "just a piece of paper". Sort of like Obama's birth certificate. I note that it does not indicate that his parents were married (nor is there a blank for it). At that time (early 60's), in Massachusetts, if the parents were not married, "Illegitimate" was stamped across the certificate in large letters.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 27, 2011 5:06 PM

Maybe someone has some newer figures, but don't the demographics follow something like this:

Any Christian – RI: 87%, US: 75%
Roman Catholic – RI: 51%, US: 25%

Is that remotely accurate?

If so, I would just like to point out I'm pretty sure the Catholic Church officially opposes same-sex marriage. Do we really have to soul search too deeply on this one?

This half-hearted middle posture is the funniest part of this decision. Either support something or don't.

Progressives want marriage equality, and conservatives either don't care or oppose it depending on particular stripe. Have any of you met someone who feels strongly that civil unions are the way to go? I have met maybe one in all my travels?

Posted by: jparis at April 27, 2011 5:08 PM

Jparis - libertarians generally support civil unions because they want government out of marriage entirely.

Posted by: Dan at April 27, 2011 5:31 PM

Swaz, I had a bad feeling about this as soon as Fox gave out those raises. He forfeited his credibility as a leader - he's no better tham Murphy or Harwood.
His whole fake tough-guy stance with Chafee on the budget was another indication. Ironically, Fox's Republican opponent last year supported SSM.
And probably would've showed a little more leadership here. I'd rather lose a floor vote than watch Fox cave like an unregulated mine.

Posted by: bella at April 27, 2011 6:41 PM

I'd tell you two libs to take your rips back to RI Future but this is too damn entertaining. Besides, you guys wouldn't even rip Cicilline over there so I doubt you would rip Fox and Paiva-Weed.

Posted by: Max Diesel at April 27, 2011 9:55 PM

jparis writes:

"Roman Catholic – RI: 51%, US: 25%

Is that remotely accurate?"

I can't verify the figures, but when you get out of the Northeast, except for Hispanic areas, Catholics become very sparse. My mother is Catholic, my father never knew one before he married her. When we visited relatives in Virginia and North Carolina, they would insist on taking her to the "nearest" Catholic church, that was sometimes 40 miles. Knowing what little they did of Catholics, they were sure she would "burn" if she missed a Sunday. The entire South was Scotch/Irish (that is where the KKK "burning crosses" came from), Catholicism was almost uknown. Some may remember John Kennedy running for President and denounced as a "papist" who would take orders from Rome. In another installment, I will describe my father's first encounter with a priest. He was offering a blessing in Latin, my father thought he was "talking in tongues". While Latin was not entirely unknown, Southern students favored Greek and Hebrew (earliest languages of the Bible).

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 27, 2011 10:15 PM

I guess civil unions give same sex couples essentially the same rights as married couples except for the name.
There's unlikely to be any strong opposition to them.
It's time the GA moved on to things like pension reform;e-Verify;throwing Gump's tax insanity back in his stupid face;and elimination of fraud in social programs,whether from provider or recipient.
Oh,I'm not seriously waiting for any of this to occur.
jparis-I actually think civil unions are ok-they allow the routine access to the same things married couples have.
Fox knew there weren't the votes,particularly in the Senate.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 28, 2011 5:13 AM

I feel the same as you, it is too bad that Gordon is an uncle Tom, unable to stand up and get a vote for full marriage, and if that fails then go for civil unions.

But we do have the fact that trends are on the side of marriage equality. This does open the door for full equality. Look at the record:

Two Federal court cases in Massachusetts ruled Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Another Federal court in New York also ruled DOMA unconstitutional.

A Federal court in Washington State ruled Don't Ask Don't Tell unconstitutional. Another Federal court in California also ruled Don't Ask Don't Tell unconstitutional. These were upheld by the Circuit Court of Appeals.

A Federal court in California ruled that state's Prop 8 unconstitutional.

After the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Romer v. Evans and in Lawrence v. Texas, it is clear that a state's refusal to recognize LBGT persons as full citizens with full civil rights, including refusing them the right to marry, will be found by Federal courts to be unconstitutional.

I hate making gays half citizens, but all that is needed now is this to pass and one or two brave couples to file a case. It is a half step in the right direction.

Posted by: Swazool at April 28, 2011 12:07 PM

"Funny how Fox and Paiva-Weed don't have the courage to fight for same-sex marriage, but they're willing to go to the mattresses for those ridiculous raises they gave their staffers."

At the risk of giving Paiva-Weed the image of deserving any credit, hasn't her stance been consistent all along.

Posted by: Max Diesel at April 28, 2011 12:42 PM

True, Max. But I wonder how committed she is to her pro-civil union stance, whether she'll fold like Fox when the church and NOM get up in her face (and they will - NOM made it clear it's not buying civil unions).
I agree with Swaz that we may have to take half a loaf if it's there (and fight for the rest another day). But I question whether the legislators who are saying "I oppose SSM, but I'll accept civil unions" publicly are being sincere. It sounds like a bait-and-switch to me, and Fox fell for it like some rube who just got off the bus from Tuscaloosa.

Posted by: bella at April 28, 2011 1:01 PM

@Dan: My understanding is that strong libertarians don't make up a large enough voting bloc on social issues to push actively for civil unions. That's from a national perspective, I could be wrong here.

@Joe: When DOMA is finally repealed (which seems to be the trend, and I'm happy to let you argue against the cases Swazool listed), your following statements will have a significant policy difference:

"jparis-I actually think civil unions are ok-they allow the routine access to the same things married couples have."

Which is true on a statewide basis. However, if DOMA were repealed, married couples everywhere would have access to the same Federal rights and privileges -- whereas civil unions would still be in a state of Federal limbo.

That's the essential argument, other than the simple and very gross idea of a two-class system. Separate but equal? Yeah, I read about that in a book somewhere around 5th grade.

Posted by: jparis at April 28, 2011 1:18 PM

The real issue is are we going to burden the taxpayers with billions of dollars on an already bankrupted system to give pension and health care to the perverted sex partners of freaks.
Whether you call it marriage, civil unions or anything else we need a FISCAL NOTE.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at April 28, 2011 1:37 PM

I imagine that some will say that I am just obtuse. But I know of no credible evidence that homosexuality is not a "choice". I am choosing to ignore such "science" as the fact that lesbians have a greater tendancy towards left handedness.

I am not sure how making a choice entitles one to "equal rights". It could be argued that "choice" required the provision for "freedom of religion".

Still, marriage is about procreation, all else flows from that. It can be argued that certain "rights" flow from amrriage. These are largely governmental rulings such as social security and pension benefits. That might be reason to alter those regulations to recognize civil unions, it does not seem a good argument to re-define marriage. Such other rules as funeral arangements and hospital visitation being restricted to "family", were preceeded by marriage. Once again, this is pettyfoggery. The obvious thing is to change the rules to recognize civil unions, they are not arguments (unless you need them to be) to re-define marriage.

A discussion of marriage, and the rules flowing from it is so broad that it is endless. How about the rule that a child of a marriage is presumed to be the child of the husband. Verifiable data indcates that when a husband doubts his parternity, he is right 40% of the time. Isn't this reason to remove the presumption of paternity, and demand DNA evidence before claiming inheritance? How about requiring DNA evidence as a condition to claiming child support? Please note the strong influence of "procreation" in these matters.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 28, 2011 3:02 PM

jparis-I don't hold any brief for DOMA-I think it was a publicity stunt.
Civil union isn't really analogous to Plessy v.Ferguson( I read about that in school too buddy).
It's a realistic accomodation for committed couples regardless of gender.
I don't care about same sex marriage at all-if it passes ok,if not,ok.
bella-you have a lot of class-too bad it's all low.
Very thoughtful to make fun of "rubes" from Tuscaloosa which was half destroyed with serious loss of life from tornadoes yesterday.
I doubt you are gay and I'm pretty sure swazool isn't just fom her posts.
Do you have a life,bella?Or do you live for "causes" 24/7-trying to have some excitement vicariously through other peoples' actual problems?

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 28, 2011 5:31 PM

Since Russ likes to complain about non-existent "double standards" here is a real one for him and the proponents of redefining "marriage" to include gays:


Try to rationalize that one, you gay advocates.

Posted by: BobN at April 28, 2011 6:27 PM

Out of consideration for Joe...Fox got taken like a rube stepping off the bus from South Dakota instead (don't believe they've had any natural diasters recently)..

Posted by: bella at April 28, 2011 6:47 PM

I've supported civil unions between people who otherwise would not be allowed to marry. I admit I've only thought it would be applicable to gay couples. Have I completely missed that civil unions as proposed will be allowed between any two people? Does that mean I can have a civil union with my brother, and be entitled to a surviving spouse's lifetime pension and healthcare rights because he worked as a public employee and has those benefits?

Posted by: riborn at April 28, 2011 6:58 PM

"Does that mean I can have a civil union with my brother, and be entitled to a surviving spouse's lifetime pension and healthcare rights because he worked as a public employee and has those benefits?"

Yes. That's why the advocates want "marriage equality" and not "gay marriage". It does allow any two adults to join in a contractual agreement with each other.

Then again, today any adult male and female can get married. If they're already related, they can lie.

Posted by: Patrick at April 28, 2011 8:36 PM

Anyone here ever watch Lone Star?
Of course they didn't get married in the film,but the ending was really weird.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 28, 2011 10:32 PM

I just thought of something-we've been hearing how "conservatives" have been roadblocking same sex marriage.
Well,jparis,bella,swazool,Russ et al:
Has even one of you mentioned Sen.Harold Metts,who is usually a bellweather of the progressive movement in RI?
metts has a lot of influence in the Senate and he is steadfastly opposed to same sex marriage.
I don't know where he stands on civil
I guess since he's progressive and Black,it wouldn't do for you folks to criticize him.Politically incorrect,I'd guess.
Just always try to make some snide remarks about Tea Party people-that's what keeps you revved up,isn't it?
Actually I think the Tea Party is WAY more concerned with Gump's tax plan and e-Verify than SSM.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 29, 2011 7:48 AM

I wouldn't call Metts progressive at all - more like our Alan Keyes. He Bible-thumps as much as any white man. If he ever tried to run statewide, he'd be about as successful as Keyes was against Obama.
BTW, "Lone Star" was a great movie. Won't give away the plot for those who haven't seen it, but given that they were both probably past their childbearing years...

Posted by: bella at April 29, 2011 8:33 AM

Metts is not a progressive at all.
He is so conservative in his values he would fit in with the republicans. I remember how he fought for the prostitution laws last year.
He might as well be Colin Powell, or Keyes like Bella said, if you were basing this on just the fact that he is black.

Posted by: Swazool at April 29, 2011 5:12 PM

bella-"Bible thumps as much as any White man"-which White man are you speaking of sweetie pie?I know I never have and I've sure seen some Black people Bible thumping to beat the band.
Since I don't know what color you are it seems you're either a very bigoted Black person or a self hating White person.Neither is a good choice.
All the progressives suck up to Metts on the subject of illegal aliens and run the other way on SSM.Progressives have cafeteria ethics.
I once saw Alan keyes make a sh*t eating fool of Alan Dershowitz at a Duke University during a debate at Duke University.

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 29, 2011 5:13 PM

swazool-I really take offense at your suggestion thaat I based my opinion of Harold Metts'political leanings on the mere fact of his being Black,because you're saying in effect that I stereotype people based on ethnicity.
I don't-that's it.
My family is interracial,lacking only Asians to make a full boat.
I based my opinion of Metts on his positions regarding firearms rights,immigration,and some economic issues where he sides with progressives.I'd say he's a lot more progressive than conservative,except on what he seems to consider religious/moral questions.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 1, 2011 5:19 AM
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