Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rhode Island Rough Road

As it had become increasingly obvious that Rhode Island's equality politics had turned rancid I've avoided mentioning it. Sure enough, the dread of many of us happened yesterday. Peering over at same-sex marriage, only a few short steps away, nerve and will failed. Gay-friendly and openly gay pols had failure of will and nerve. They voted 21 to 16 for a severely mangled civil-union bill, one that pleases no one.

Let us touch on a few of Rhody's distinctions.
  • Its first white settler was Rev. William Blackstone, who had been the first in what is now Boston. He got away from the growing intolerance on the Shawmut peninsula.
  • Then Roger Williams brought his crowd for similar and expanded purposes of freedom.
  • It was the site of the continent's first Jewish temple and was an open home for religious liberty.
  • It still exempts orthodox Jewish groups from its more restrictive marriage regulations.
  • It recognized same-sex marriages solemnized in Massachusetts when other states refuse comity.
  • It allows and even encourages businesses and non-profits to offer homosexual couples full benefits.
Meanwhile, progressive marriage-equality actions were doubly crushed. The RC Bishop there is virulently anti-gay and definitely anti-SSM. Moreover, the arch-conservative governor and top legislative leaders in both houses quashed any effort to vote on or even debate equality. Even as the voters were polling strong and stronger in favor of SSM, they did not believe in democracy any more than they did in LGBT rights.

When everyone except the unelected bishop, Thomas Tobin, was voted out or hit their term limits, RI was the obvious next state for full equality. Almost like a sign from a compassionate and liberty loving deity, openly gay House Speaker Gordon Fox led the short march toward SSM.

Then his heart failed. He inexplicably began speaking of civil union. Then worse, in the name of efficacy, he went with the Corvese amendment that allowed broad exemptions, watering even weak civil unions into transparency. Imagine a legal union where one member cannot make medical decisions for the other in even the most loosely religiously affiliated hospital!

Well, that's what the RI legislature passed and the governor says he'll sign. It's a disgrace and atavism.

Of course, there is now a clear path to SSM there, but along a long trail that will require lots of work, time, money and general waste. They'll have to restart and go the way of Connecticut in converting a shack into a mansion. That could well be what the anti-gay sorts intended all along and got with Fox' passive help. If they can't stop marriage equality, they can make the good guys labor mightily for it — punishment they figure the homosexuals deserve.

I do believe that RI will get there. This is not the way station any equality minded folk envisioned..

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