MERI States Strong Opposition to Civil Unions; Expresses Disappointment in Speaker Fox


For Immediate Release: April 27, 2011
Contact: Bill Fischer, True North Communications
LLC Office: 401-228-8016
Cell: 401-862-4652

MERI States Strong Opposition to Civil Unions
Expresses Disappointment in Speaker Fox
Providence, RI – The Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI) board of directors issued a statement expressing staunch opposition to civil unions now being supported by Speaker Gordon Fox and restated their support for full marriage equality for same-sex couples in Rhode Island.

“Civil unions are unacceptable because they marginalize gay and lesbian couples in very significant ways. The General Assembly will essentially be legalizing a two-class system that subjects thousands of Rhode Island same-sex couples to discrimination. We cannot support legislation that establishes a second class of citizens in Rhode Island,” said Martha Holt, chair of MERI’s board of directors.

There are 1,138 federal laws and programs in which marriage is a factor. People in civil unions will not be eligible for these benefits or protections even if the federal Defense of Marriage Act ceases to exist.
The word marriage is itself a protection. People with civil unions need to explain themselves to emergency room personnel, relatives, school officials, and bureaucracies. People who are married do not.

“Civil unions are a compromise for no one. Advocates both for and against marriage equality have clearly expressed their opposition to the half measure of civil unions,” said Holt. “We are extremely disappointed in the lack of leadership at the State House and we would urge Speaker Fox to rethink sponsoring legislation that would create a second class of citizens.”

“Marriage Equality Rhode Island is fully entrenched and will remain in this fight until all of Rhode Island’s couples are treated equally under the law. Half measures and second-class rights will not appease us,” added Holt.

Marriage Equality Rhode Island volunteers are actively engaged throughout Rhode Island and have been for months. Volunteers are mobilized in every legislative district in Rhode Island, including those of House Speaker Fox and Senate President Paiva-Weed.


Marc on April 27, 2011 at 5:12 pm

I am a straight man, I have no dog in this fight.  But I have to question the strategy here.

If we look in history at past movements by repressed groups, like Women and African Americans, we see that there was not a singular event that lead to equality.  It was more “death by a 1000 cuts”.  Why does this movement seem to expect different?

It feels/looks like your group wants absolute instant gratification or nothing.  That seems like poor judgment to me.

Yes, civil unions ar e not marriages.  Some things are fundamentally different, but at the same time isn’t gaining some of the benefits of marriage through CUs better then none?

A rational strategy would see this as a victory, one of many cuts.  Doesn’t it make sense to grab the low hanging fruit when you can and then push for change?  Won’t at least some people on the fringes see CUs and see that society did not end and maybe shift their thinking about the word marriage? 

I just don’t get the all or nothing strategy.  It feels like you are hindering your own movement by expecting instant gratification.

janet flannersw on April 27, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Hey straightman, I appreciate your faux support for equality and I’ll be more impressed when you give up your heterosexual entitlement and privilege

Greg Matos on April 27, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Marc -

There is an argument for the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” sentiment. However, I’m sure you’d agree that there would be no greater gratification for us all if Rhode Island achieved social equality for its citizens.

And for myself, speaking from a position of heterosexual male privilege, I can say without doubt or hesitation, that we all have a “dog in this fight.“ To borrow another quote from Dr. King, “Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.“

Let’s be open to questioning the strategy of any movement, but not the urgency of its goal for those who are oppressed and denied equality under the law.

Be well.

Tony P on April 27, 2011 at 7:53 pm

I refuse to be civil unioned. What the hell is Fox’s problem anyhow?

Lou Bottella on April 27, 2011 at 9:22 pm

I’m legally married to my husband and will never have a civil union performed. It would be less than what God had blessed for us more than 2 years ago. Also, marriage itself is a civil act. Applying for a license at town hall is a CIVIL act. One can marry on a beach, on a mountain, in the air, under the sea, OR in a church. I hope Gordon Fox’s constituents move to recall him.

Sam Dodsworth on April 27, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Great, another legislature that has no backbone.

Looks like the only hope now is a LEGISLATIVELY REFERRED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT to explicitly legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island.

It would easily pass in RI, the most supportive state in the nation regarding same-sex marriage.

And what legislators would vote against letting the people decide whether or not to legalize it??

I really think this would work so MERI, it’s time to step up and make this happen next legislative session so that voters can legalize same-sex marriage in the 2012 election!!

Mad Professah on April 27, 2011 at 10:55 pm

I think half a loaf is better than none.

I don’t see why Speaker Fox can’t have the legislature vote on BOTH measures: a marriage equality bill as well as the compromise civil unions bill.

After all, the result in Maryland is instructive: they went for all the marbles of marriage equality and ended up with bupkiss.

Hawaii and Illinois have passed Civil Unions this year and Colorado just missed by 1 vote in the lower house.

Everyone knows that in none of these states will anyone be stopping the push for marriage equality. But until that date we have marriage equality in every state, same-sex couples and their families need the protections under state law that civil unions can provide.

Andre on April 28, 2011 at 9:29 am

We need to march!!!!

RM on April 28, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Andre is right, it’s time to march. We need to mobilize every gay and lesbian person in Rhode Island and have a peaceful demonstration.

Please write legislators explaining why civil unions are unjust and what marriage means to you. I wrote every senator in Rhode Island and got a number of thoughtful and insightful responses. It’s our stories that stick with them.

Little man on April 29, 2011 at 6:52 pm

“There are 1,138 federal laws and programs in which marriage is a factor”

They used to say so many federal “rights” for married people only.

This has been found to be exaggerated. Watch out for silly claims.

Anyway, there are a lot of friendships that also don’t get these 1,138 smile benefits, why are they also “discriminated”?

Discrimination nowadays means anything you’d like it to mean.

Little man on April 29, 2011 at 6:59 pm

The question is what can MERI do about it, aside from raving about it and jumping up and down?

They are now going to criticize the man who fought for their cause? Sounds like what people of homosexual behavior would do. Lots of leaders in their movement have resigned or been fired.

Who would want to be a leader of such efforts to call equality that which is fundamentally not equal?

Marriage already has true equality.

Tony P on May 01, 2011 at 11:17 am

Actually we have another venue for Marriage Equality though the powers that be think we’d lose there. It’s called the Judiciary.

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