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Rhode Island’s Catholic Bishop Attempts Another Delay Tactic

Forgetting that justice delayed is justice denied, Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence is trying to persuade the Rhode Island Senate to delay action on marriage-related legislation.  Here is the bishop’s Hail Mary pass:

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence

In light of the historic deliberations of the U.S. Supreme Court on same-sex marriage, it would be appropriate for the General Assembly of Rhode Island to defer any action on this critical issue for the time being. Any legislative action that is taken now could very well be rendered completely null and void by the decision of the Supreme Court expected this June. It is likely that the Supreme Court will decide this matter for us, one way or another. Let’s wait to see what the highest court of the land says about this issue which is so very important to many Rhode Islanders

Earlier this month Bishop Tobin and National Organization for Marriage in Rhode Island shockingly decided to back Sen. Ciccone’s just-introduced referendum bill (S708). The bill, called “sloppy and cowardly” by NOM-RI’s ally MassResistance, would send a referendum to voters asking whether the state constitution should be amended to remove the gender limitations on marriage as well as roll back certain anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians.

At the time, Bishop Tobin called the referendum bill “an eminently reasonable approach“.  This week, his tune has clearly changed.  The only explanation can be that he’s learned that the Senate Committee on Judiciary, which heard 14 hours of public testimony on the marriage equality and referendum bills last week, has a different view of what is “eminently reasonable”.

Shorter Bishop Tobin: If you think you’ll lose, delay, delay, delay!

Rhode Islanders United for Marriage has responded to Bishop Tobin’s proposal for delay with the following statement from Rev. Gene Dyszlewski, chair of the Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality:

With all due respect to His Excellency, neither case before the Supreme Court has any bearing on the decision of the General Assembly to make marriage available to all loving, committed couples in Rhode Island,” said Rev. Dyszlewski. “This is another in a long string of delay tactics — seeking to stall the strong momentum of marriage equality legislation — by those who oppose allowing all families to access the dignity and respect of marriage. The fact is, no decision issued by the Court will render ‘null and void’ any state legislature’s ability to grant the freedom to marry to all its citizens.

We respect the Senate process, and are appreciative the Judiciary Committee is continuing to consider the testimony from last week’s unprecedented 12-hour long hearing. We are still engaging in thoughtful and productive conversations with all members of the Senate.

This is a holy week for many Rhode Islanders, as we gather around Seder tables and paschal candles. I, for one, will pray for our elected leaders in the General Assembly, that they may hear God’s call to love one another, as He loves us.

In late January, the Rhode Island House passed the marriage equality bill (H5015/S38) by an overwhelming majority of 51 to 19.  The Senate Committee on Judiciary has not yet scheduled a vote on the bill.

The marriage equality bill enjoys broad popular support, including from 60.4 % of Rhode Island voters, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, the NAACP, Congressman Cicilline, Rhode Island city mayors, Catholic Rhode Islanders, Republican Sen. James Doyle, Republican Sen. Nick Kettle, Republican Sen. Dawson Hodgson, the Rhode Island Psychological Association, Rhode Island business leaders and tourism boards, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island, the RI Bar Association, the RI State Council of Churches, and the Right Reverend W. Nicholas Knisely, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island.

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Laurel Ramseyer

Laurel Ramseyer

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