Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bay and Ocean State Marriages

Ten times may be the charm. Into the polite, gentle maw of the Rhode Island General Assembly, a same-sex marriage bill travels its two streams —– House and Senate.

They didn't force the issue last year and it died quietly in committee. Meanwhile, DoMA support has dwindled as SSM sponsors have climbed. Normally a reactionary DoMA bill goes into the process as well. Whether they'll bother this time remains to be seen.

On the House side, Rep. Arthur Handy is leading. His counterpart is Sen. Rhoda Perry. In his remarks on the new bill, Handy commented:
The reality is that there are still many people in Rhode Island who don'’t agree with us on this issue. But there have also been people who wouldn'’t accept interracial marriage, and that didn't mean that banning it would be right for society either. It'’s rarely easy or quick to put an end to any kind of discrimination.
Rhode Island's marriage laws are similar to Massachusetts' in being defined as civil contracts, not religious rites. The key here is that the question in both states is who is entitled to get a license. That makes editing man/woman terms pretty simple.

Clearly, this is what the anti-SSM forces in those states with DoMA laws or amendments or both now have. Making the change will be much more difficult with institutionalized homophobia. As the years and battles stretch on, legislators and voters in those states are likely eventually to slap their foreheads and ask, "What were we thinking?" Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time to them, like segregated schools, like forbidding women from voting...

One difference with Rhode Island as opposed to Massachusetts is that its marriage laws actually have religion incorporated. However, in this case, it is to liberalize the laws in keeping with the state's historical links with Jews. The marriage sections of Domestic Relations (Title 15 laws; 15-1-4) permits Jews only to use their religion's definitions of affinity and consanguinity (incest).

The sparse laws on marriage there have been updated many times for minor refinements. Upgrading to the new, improved SSM model requires simplifying sections of 15-1 Persons Eligible to Marry. Last year's version is here.

It also entered a new conservative placater:
15-3-5.1. Protection of freedom of religion in marriage. — (a) Each religious institution has exclusive control over its own religious doctrine, policy, and teachings regarding who may marry within their faith, and on what terms. No court or other state or local governmental body,entity, agency or commission shall compel, prevent, or interfere in any way with any religious institution's decisions about marriage eligibility within that particular faith's tradition.
(b) Clergy persons as described in section 15-3-5 or 15-3-6 of the general laws or other persons otherwise authorized under law to officiate at a civil marriage shall not be obligated or otherwise required by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage.
That's the minister-or-priest-doesn't-have-to-solemnize-gay-marriage rule.

That's simple enough and very similar to the Massachusetts situation. How civilized it would be in the pols in Providence did this by law.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why don't any of the "Three Stooges" (Camenker, Amy "from Article 8" Contrada, and Pawlick)ever mention Rhode Island in their rantings? If I were Rhode Island I would feel slighted.