Legislators oppose Corvese Amendment to Civil Union bill

A significant number of state representatives have formally called on legislative leaders and Governor Lincoln Chafee to work together to remove the “dangerous” and “discriminatory” Corvese amendment to civil union legislation that is awaiting approval in the Senate.
“With the addition of the Corvese amendment, the well-intended civil union bill has been irreparably undermined. This bill legalizes discrimination against the very status and protections it creates, and allows groups with even tenuous connections to religious denominations to ignore very specific laws as they relate to same sex couples,” 14 pro-equality legislators wrote in a letter hand-delivered today to House Speaker Gordon Fox, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed and Governor Lincoln Chafee today.

The amendment was abruptly added to H6103 when the House took up the bill in May, and received little debate or discussion. It is the most wide-sweeping, broad and discriminatory language that has ever been added to a same sex marriage or civil union bill anywhere in the country. Anti-equality activists, like the National Organization for Marriage, have desperately tried to sneak such language into bills in other states, without success. House Speaker Gordon Fox sanctioned the amendment going forward, and even voted in favor of its passage.

The lawmakers raised several substantive objections to the Corvese language, including the potential for a civil union spouse to be denied the ability to participate in a partner’s medical care during an emergency.

“Specifically, H6103, as amended, would allow any religiously connected entity to ignore the legal import of a civil union for any purpose. It would sanction a civil union spouse being denied the ability to make medical decisions for his or her spouse in a religiously-affiliated hospital or healthcare facility, despite having the legal authority to do so. This could be particularly calamitous in an emergency situation,” the letter states. The pro-equality legislators said they don’t oppose including protections and exemptions for faith groups in the civil union bill, but the Corvese Amendment goes too far.

“We agree that religious institutions should be guarded from having to alter their principles, faith or dogma and we support certain exemptions for faith groups to accomplish that goal. But religiously-affiliated groups should not be shielded from having to follow the law,” they said in the letter.

“If the true intent of this bill is to grant rights to those who have been denied them for far too long, then we cannot give any organization, religious or otherwise, the autonomous authority to single-out and discriminate against a minority class of citizens.”

Marriage Equality Rhode Island Board Chair Martha Holt praised the lawmakers for “having the courage to speak out against such blatant and alarming discrimination.” 

“We are grateful to these 14 lawmakers for actively working to correct this corrupted bill. This legislation would cause significant harm to thousands of gay and lesbian Rhode Islanders in loving, committed relationships, and it cannot be allowed to pass in its current form,” Holt said.

“This is not only a dramatic step backward for the gay and lesbian community, it’s an unwarranted slap in the face,” Holt said.  She added that the civil rights group would actively be involved in the 2012 Primary and General Elections to “make sure constituents know if their legislators supported discrimination or equality.”

It bares the signatures of 14 members of the House of Representatives, including: Reps. Blazejewski. Valencia, Ajello, Bennett, Ferri, O’Grady, Cimini, Handy, Tanzi, Walsh, Slater, Williams, Diaz and Tomasso.


Richard on June 27, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Who are these brave members?  Why aren’t they listed?

Reverend Betsy Aldrich Garland on June 27, 2011 at 4:30 pm

I would like to be able to thank those legislators who signed on for doing so.  Will you publish their names?

Richard on June 27, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Betsy, I was told by Karen Loewy we should look at the press release if we want to know the names.

grod on June 27, 2011 at 10:20 pm

@Richard: There are other reasons to get out a press release out.  Betsy Aldrich Garland wants to acknowledge legislators’ coordinated effort. 
Marriage Equality may want to alert other in the New England States of their need for support.  MERI may want to remind the public - the influenceable middle - of their presence in this debate.  G

Rhody on June 28, 2011 at 2:10 am

Actually, those wishing to thank the reps can look to the last paragraph of this post.

Richard on June 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Thanks for updating the blog post with the names.  It’s nice to know that MERI can handle constructive feedback!

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