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National Organization for Marriage backs Rhode Island marriage equality referendum as “compromise”

Marriage equality Right-wing

By Scottie Thomaston

Yesterday, EqualityOnTrial reported that the marriage equality bill in Rhode Island is scheduled for its first Senate committee vote on March 21. There is also a “compromise bill” which would put the issue of marriage equality on the ballot for the voters to decide; the bill would also repeal the part of the state’s anti-discrimination law related to businesses that offer services related to a marriage ceremony. The bill was introduced by Senator Frank Ciccone.

As Pam’s House Blend noted, a ballot initiative on the issue of marriage equality is opposed by Rhode Islanders United for Marriage and Rhode Island’s Governor Lincoln Chafee.

The bill is backed by the National Organization for Marriage. Yesterday, they sent an email to supporters which said:

Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, bishop of the Diocese of Providence, had this to say about the newly proposed bill by Senator Frank Ciccone:

“We will continue to vigorously oppose efforts to redefine the institution of marriage in Rhode Island. Nevertheless, the legislation introduced by Senator Ciccone presents an eminently reasonable approach to this divisive issue. It advances the discussion in a positive and democratic way, while at the same time safeguarding the rights of all parties. The citizens of Rhode Island have a right to vote on this crucial issue.”

We stand alongside the bishop 100% in this statement.

NOM has backed civil unions in the past, in New Hampshire, but this is the first time they’ve announced support for a marriage equality referendum.

Since the amendment, if passed, would remove anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians, it would seem to pose some constitutional problems at the very least. The Supreme Court addressed the taking away of anti-discrimination protections in Romer v. Evans, and they’re considering the issue again now in the Prop 8 case. Laurel Ramseyer at Pam’s House Blend suggests that the bill is a “poison pill” bill and an attempt to persuade legislators who don’t want to take a position on marriage equality to back an amendment that voters would have to approve.

Also in NOM news, yesterday, the Associated Press ran a story about the family diversity of Supreme Court Justices. The story suggested that the family backgrounds of all the Justices are diverse: two Justices (Thomas and Chief Justice Roberts) raise adopted children, some have no children, and some were never married. Since the Court is going to hear cases related to marriage and families in less than two weeks, the report discussed what impact that diversity might have on the Justices’ views.

The chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, John Eastman, told the AP that Chief Justice Roberts’ decision to adopt children rather than to have biological children and raise them was the “second-best” option. He mentioned Roberts by name. Later, Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade (who is attending CPAC this week) asked NOM’s president Brian Brown about the comments, and Brown didn’t respond directly.

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