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Democrats in Rhode Island legislature introduce a state DOMA bill

Jenn Steinfeld, director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, emailed me about this development in the state.

Rhode Island is one of the few states that didn’t pass a Defense of Marriage Act after Bill Clinton signed the federal DOMA back in 1996.

Now, because RI’s Attorney General Patrick Lynch advised, in a nonbinding opinion, that out-of-state same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts (or Canada or other nations where it is legal) should be recognized, the wingnuts have come out of the woodwork.

HB 6159, “An act relating to domestic relations – persons eligible to marry,” says:

This act would prohibit same sex marriages in the state and would prohibit the state from recognizing a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage.

The bill was introduced by five Democrats: Representatives William San Bento (D – N. Prov/Pawtucket), Arthur Corvese (D – N. Prov), Peter Palumbo (D – Cranston),  Jon Brien (D – Woonsocket), and Helio Melo (D –  E. Prov).

Marriage Equality Rhode Island has a petition up and says this:

Rhode Island is in a unique situation, because our laws don’t specifically ban marriage between same-sex spouses.  This means two things: first, that Rhode Island same-sex couples can marry in Massachusetts, and second, that these marriages will be recognized when they return home.  Attorney General Patrick Lynch made this clear last month with his statement that state agencies should recognize married employees as what they are – married.

HB 6159 is a direct attack on same-sex couples!  This bill was clearly designed to counteract the impact of the Attorney General’s statement, and prevent the state from recognizing marriages between same-sex spouses, even if they were legal where they were performed.  If passed, it would also close the Massachusetts border to Rhode Island same-sex couples, shutting of access to marriage there.

The organization also notes that in a poll taken last April 45% of Rhode Island voters support marriage equality, with 39% opposed. The numbers for residents under 40 are even more affirming:  67% think gays and lesbians should be able to marry.

These Dem lawmakers are homophobes; there’s no reason for the legislation except blind hate and fear — taking away rights from gays and lesbians is simply wrong. Hopefully this bill will die, but I’m certain some fundie forces will try to make hay of this.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding