Yesterday the Rhode Island Senate voted 21 to 16 to pass a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions and attain some of the same benefits enjoyed by married couples, such as the right to visit a partner in the hospital and make decisions about the partner’s medical care and the right to joint bank accounts and property transfers. The bill would not, however, allow same sex couples to obtain marriage licenses. The bill has already passed the state House of Representatives and will go to Governor Lincoln Chaffee (I), who is expected to sign it into law.
Nevertheless, the measure is considered by many gay marriage advocates, who were hoping that same- sex would be legalized in Rhode Island, as a compromise. Martha Holt, board chair of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, stated, “This civil union bill contains dangerous and discriminatory language that, without question, will cause significant harm to countless gay and lesbian couples in loving, committed relationships, and we will continue to fight it through whatever means are necessary.” Rhode Island and Maine are the only states in New England where same-sex marriage is not legal.
If signed, Rhode Island would become the fifth state to permit same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, following New Jersey, Illinois, Delaware, and Hawaii. Currently, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and Washington DC allow marriage of same-sex couples.
Media Resources: Equality Rhode Island Statement 6/30/11; New York Times 6/30/11; CNN 6/29/11