Supporters of gay marriage in Rhode
Island expressed their disappointment with a civil unions compromise
during a Wednesday committee hearing, the AP reported.
Representative Peter Petrarca, a
Democrat from Lincoln, introduced his civil unions bill after House
Speaker Gordon Fox announced a gay marriage proposal has “no
realistic chance” of being approved in the General Assembly this
session. Fox, who is gay and backs marriage equality, said he would
shift away from marriage and toward civil union for gay couples as a
Many supporters believe the marriage
bill would have cleared the House. Less likely is the Senate, where
President Teresa Paiva Weed has said she supports civil unions but
not marriage for gay couples.
“This creates a separate status only
for gay people to send a message that gay people are not worthy of
the protections marriage provides,” Karen Loewy, an attorney with
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), told lawmakers on
the House Judiciary Committee.
The National Organization for Marriage
(NOM), the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage, said it
also opposed the compromise.
“Like similar legislation enacted in
Connecticut and California, the proposed civil union legislation is
nothing more than a Trojan Horse that will usher in same-sex marriage
sooner rather than later,” said Chris Plante, executive director of
the Rhode Island chapter of NOM, in a statement.
Plante urged legislators to “recognize
this bill for what it is – a clear path for the courts to redefine
marriage without the vote of the people.”
Petrarca pleaded with both sides to
understand the need for a compromise.
“Both sides are acting like
schoolchildren,” Petrarca chided. “We either do nothing and let
this thing continue to fester, or give same-sex couples the rights
The panel could vote on the legislation
as early as next week.