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ACLU Criticizes House Decision Not to Vote on Gay Marriage

Posted: May 02, 2011|Category: LGBT Rights

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Below is a statement issued today by RI ACLU executive director Steven Brown on Speaker of the House Gordon Fox's announcement last week that instead of voting on a same-sex marriage bill, the House will instead consider "civil union" legislation in its place:

The Rhode Island ACLU is extremely disappointed in Speaker Fox's decision last week not to have a House vote on same-sex marriage legislation.  Gay and lesbian couples deserve to be treated as true equals before the law, which only marriage recognition can provide. It is simply too late in the day to argue that civil unions are commensurate with marriage, especially in light of the fact that two of our neighboring states' highest courts have explicitly recognized same-sex marriage to be a constitutionally guaranteed right.  Indeed, four of our five New England neighbors allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Couples in Rhode Island deserve no less.

It is worth noting that the Rhode Island General Assembly was the venue for a long struggle to statutorily protect the LGBT community from discrimination in employment, housing and elsewhere. That struggle also took a dozen years, but on that issue a number of spirited floor debates – in both the House and Senate – took place before the law was enacted. Only by a full venting of the issue could the fears raised by opponents be directly addressed.

Finally, some of those supporting this 'compromise' have noted that Vermont started by recognizing only civil unions, and yet full marriage rights ultimately came to pass. However, it took nine long years for that to happen. Same sex marriage is no longer something novel, unique or untested. In this day and age, loving Rhode Islanders should not have to wait another nine years to have their relationship recognized for what it is. They deserve a vote on what has become the critical civil rights issue of our time.

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