National Marriage Groups Ask Chafee to Veto Civil Union Bill

By Katie Garcia, Freedom to Marry's Communications Intern

Today, Freedom to Marry joined Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) and prominent national marriage equality advocates to call on Gov. Lincoln Chafee to veto the civil union legislation is the Rhode Island Senate passes the bill with the controversial and discriminatory Corvese Amendment included. 

The Corvese Amendment was purported to be about providing additional exemptions and protections to faith organizations, but in reality, this amendment would allow religiously-affiliated organizations, including hospitals, day care centers, school and cemeteries to openly and intentionally discriminate against civil union spouses. This means that hospitals, like Our Lady of Fatima or St. Joseph’s, could legally refuse to allow a spouse to visit their dying partner or make medical decisions in an emergency situation. 

“This flawed civil union bill undermines a crucial principle that Rhode Island has always stood for -- respecting the separation of church and state,” said Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry.  “Not only does the bill propose a separate-and-unequal status instead of ending the denial of marriage itself, it grants an unprecedented license to discriminate against same-sex couples and their families. Governor Chafee should veto this defective bill and work with the legislature to enact a marriage bill that ends discrimination while preserving religious and personal freedom on equal terms for all.”

Freedom to Marry and nine other civil rights and pro-equality groups signed a letter sent to Gov. Chafee calling on him to veto any civil union bill that passes in the legislature that includes the Corvese Amendment. The list of signers includes Freedom to Marry, MERI, Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders League, The Human Rights Campaign, The American Civil Liberties Union, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and The Family Equality Council. 

In addition, yesterday 14 Rhode Island legislators also submitted a letter to Chafee, House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed demanding that this discriminatory Corvese Amendment be removed from the bill. 
The civil unions bill is expected to be taken up by the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow afternoon.