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Citizens for Responsible Government Coalition Launches Campaign to Defeat Constitutional Convention

Posted: May 01, 2014|Category: Civil Rights

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Citizens for Responsible Government, a diverse and growing coalition of Rhode Island individuals and organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, has launched its campaign to defeat a Constitutional Convention. At a press conference in April, the coalition cited a number of reasons why they are opposed to a Constitutional Convention.

“A Constitutional Convention is a significant threat to our civil rights,” stated coalition spokesman Pablo Rodriguez, who is also President of Latino Public Radio. “Across the country, issues like affirmative action, reproductive rights, gay rights, worker rights, senior citizen rights, and immigrant rights, have become fodder for expensive statewide campaigns mounted by well-funded, out-of-state special interests.”

George Nee, President of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, said, “We can not let wealthy individuals and corporations buy our Constitution. A Constitutional Convention, for all intents and purposes, puts our Constitution up for sale. In states across the country with voter initiative, deep-pocketed special interest groups and wealthy individuals are distorting issues and hijacking local campaigns. Rhode Island does not need a constitutional convention to change our governance. Constitutional changes may be done, and have been done in the past, by questions placed on the ballot by the General Assembly. A Constitutional Convention is expensive, and our money can be better spent elsewhere.”

Paula Hodges, Director of Planned Parenthood Southern New England, stated, “Women should be very concerned about a Constitutional Convention because ballot measures have been used disproportionately across the country to impact and restrict reproductive rights. The 1986 Constitutional Convention in Rhode Island quickly spiraled from ‘good government’ to abortion politics. This is not the way to debate and decide these issues.”

Jen Stevens, of Rhode Island PRIDE, stated, “One year after winning equal marriage rights through our state legislature we remember our long struggle and recognize that the same groups and individuals who opposed gay rights, and funded our opposition, will wish to play a role in a constitutional convention. Every Rhode Islander should be concerned about attempts by these same organizations to leverage a Constitutional Convention in order to roll back or stifle LGBTQ and other minority rights. A Constitutional Convention cannot provide a better alternative to our current state legislature's ability to ensure LGBTQ rights. We are gravely concerned that those who would be elected in a small turn-out, special election will not reflect the wishes or diversity of the LGBTQ community. That is why Rhode Island Pride stands in solidarity with this coalition.”

Rodriguez concluded, “While our opponents claim a constitutional convention could improve our governmental structure, we believe this is a red herring that will certainly serve as a vehicle for socially divisive amendments. Passage of a constitutional convention will lead to disastrous results for Rhode Islanders.”

Coalition members include RI ACLU, RI AFL-CIO, RI Alliance for Retired Americans, AFSCME, Central Falls Teachers Union, RI Commission for Human Rights, RI Commission on Occupational Safety and Health, RI Economic Progress Institute, Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, Fuerza Laboral, Humanists of RI, IATSE Local 23, Jobs With Justice, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Council of Jewish Women RI, Providence Central Labor Council, Providence NAACP, Planned Parenthood Southern New England, RI National Association of Social Workers, RI NOW, RI Pride, RI Progressive Democrats, Secular Coalition for Rhode Island, UAW Local 7770, USW Local 16031, UWUA Local 310, UFCW Local 328, UNITE HERE, United Nurses and Allied Professionals, Warwick Teachers Union Local 915, and the Women’s Health and Education Fund.

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