Rhode Island Governor Vetoes Burial Rights For Gay Couples

An Empty Place Where His Heart Should Be

It seems like such a simple act of compassion – allowing the partners of committed same-sex couples to make funeral arrangements for their significant others. But according to Governor Donald L. Carcieri of Rhode Island, bestowing this small but vital legal right to gays and lesbians will somehow “degrade” traditional marriage. From the Providence Journal: An opponent of same-sex marriage, Governor Carcieri has vetoed bill that would have added “domestic partners” to the list of people authorized by law to make funeral arrangements for each other. In his veto message, Republican Carcieri said: “This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage, which is not the preferred way to approach this issue.”

The conservative politician said he considers the “preferred approach” to address equality – or rather, gross inequality – is to put the matter of full-blown domestic partnerships before Ocean State voters, who at this time would probably nix the idea. As Carcieri well knows.

The legislation defines a domestic partner as someone who was in an “exclusive, intimate and committed relationship” with the deceased and had lived with him or her for at least a year prior to the death; is at least 18, not married to anyone else, not related by blood and who was financially “interdependent” with the deceased as evidenced, for example, by a joint mortgage, shared credit card or domestic partnership contract… (That sounds reasonable to me – and it’s precisely how many corporations set the standard for offering DP benefits.) Carcieri cited at least two other reasons for his veto. As written, he said the bill would allow the decisions of a “partner” of a year to take precedence over “traditional family members,” and he believes a “one year time period is not a sufficient duration to establish a serious bond between two individuals…”

This is downright insulting when you consider the vast array of rights and benefits that are awarded to opposite sex couples the very instant that they say “I do.” There’s no “waiting period” for heterosexuals before their bond is considered “serious.” Also, some of those “traditional family members” hovering on the sidelines are only interested in getting their hands on the deceased’s assets – and they’ll be the first to exclude a same-sex partner from participating in the funeral.

Carcieri said he was also uncertain “how it would be ascertained in many circumstances whether [a couple] had been in a relationship for year” since there is “no official or recognized form” of domestic partnership agreement in Rhode Island. He called this proviso “vague and ill-defined.” (Au contraire. The Republican governor’s attempts to justify his anti-gay animus are “vague and ill-defined.”)

This law was meant to address just one inequality faced by same-sex couples, where the death of a loved one is rendered doubly tragic by the anti-LGBT agenda of right-wing pols. In vetoing this legislation, the Rhode Island governor, bowing to his conservative base, demonstrates a total lack of humanity. And a surplus of mean-spiritedness.

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