MERI Blog

We’ve got to kill this amendment

The Smith Hill politicians aren’t listening.

They’ve ignored the will of a majority of Rhode Islanders who support marriage equality, and now they’re on the verge of passing a civil union bill that could have a devastating impact on thousands of gay and lesbian couples in loving, committed relationships.

It’s time to take action.

What may have started as a civil union bill with noble intentions, has been irreparably corrupted to include language that intentionally allows private and religiously affliated organizations to discriminate against same sex couples. But these aren’t just any organizations, they’re hospitals, schools and other institutions that receive public funding. Prior to the House adding the Corvese Amendment, MERI was neither for nor against civil unions. Our role has been to exclusively advocate for full marriage rights for all Rhode Islanders. But the Corvese Amendment goes too far. As a result, no matter what you think about civil unions, this bill is not for you.

Don’t let anyone tell you that this is about exempting or protecting faith based institutions. MERI has always supported common-sense religious exemption and protection language, because no government should ever tell any religion what rites or ceremonies it must convey or condone. But at the same time, no religious group should ever be granted the autonomous authority to operate outside the boundaries of the law. They certainly shouldn’t be given a license to discriminate, and that’s what this bill does.

Now, in the final days of the its session, the General Assembly is hoping that you’ve stopped paying attention. Let’s prove them wrong.

I need you to call your state senator this weekend. Make sure they know that you will hold them accountable in the 2012 elections if they support a civil union bill that includes the discriminatory Corvese Amendment. Tell them you want the Corvese Amendment removed from the civil union bill.And it’s time to make sure Governor Chafee hears from us as well. Soon, he’ll have a major role to play in determining whether this legislation becomes law. He needs to hear from you, right now. Make sure his office knows that you don’t support any bill that contains the dangerous Corvese Amendment.

It’s up to all of us to keep fighting. Don’t let the Smith Hill politicians get away with passing a bad bill that will set us back more than it will move us forward.

In Solidarity,

Ray Sullivan
Campaign Director
Marriage Equality Rhode Island

4 comments

grod on June 26, 2011 at 8:09 pm

With New York’s success, your advocacy needs the support of the wider New England community.  Consider asking others including the Courage Campaign.  G

seth on June 26, 2011 at 11:10 pm

agreeing with G, the Courage Campaign was big help in passing marriage equality in New York. please consider asking the Courage Campaign for help

Dawn Euer on June 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Absolutely.  As we work towards winning equality we’re going to be asking plenty of people to help to make sure we’re successful the next time.
Thanks for the great suggestions!

paula carmichael on June 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Dear Senator ,

I am asking you to work to remove the Corvese Amendment from the Civil Union Bill. 

Current law already protects the ability of clergy of different faiths to choose who they will and will not marry.  Some religions routinely will not perform ceremonies for divorced people, or people of different faiths, as is their right.  The Corvese Amendment goes too far, in particular with statement “(3) To treat as valid any civil union if ... treating as valid would cause such organizations or individuals to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.“

Such an amendment would render gay couples subject to the whims of a myriad of individuals who may be hostile to our relationships and are given carte blanche to act on this.  In its worst incarnation, it would compromise the ability of gay couples to make decisions for their spouses and children in life threatening situations , leaving us to negotiate every little interaction with ER doctors, nurses, and right down to the housekeeping staff at religious affiliated hospitals and nursing homes. 

I also cannot for the life of me figure out how a CIVIL government is in any position to define what is and is not a “sincerely held religious belief”.  How can the law tell the difference between a “ sincerely held religious belief” and mere bigotry?  What is the nature of the test that can tell the difference?

I believe this amendment is an illegal establishment of religion because it provides special protections only to people who are opposed to gay civil unions.  For example, as this amendment is written, a liberal religious organization which explicitly supports gay marriage and/or civil unions could be in the absurd position of having an employee refuse to work with gay couples in civil unions. 

I also think the language “ supervised, controlled by, or in connection with” is so ill-defined as to be nearly meaningless.  How close a connection is sufficient?  If the “ parent” religious organization changes it’s stance on gay marriage or civil unions over time, how does that impact the affiliates? 

Finally, if the Corvese Amendment goes through, at the very least I would ask you to amend the law to require such organizations or individuals to identify themselves in advance so that I and my friends and family may try to avoid them. 


Thank you for your time,

Paula G. Carmichael, MD
Lincoln, RI

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