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Gay partners in Rhode Island granted right to make funeral arrangements

(RHODE ISLAND) Yesterday lawmakers and members of the General Assembly in the state of Rhode Island overrode a veto by Governor Don Carcieri and passed into law legislation that allows domestic partners the right to make funeral arrangements for their deceased partners.

Although Rhode Island opposes same-sex marriage, many legislators and activists see this as a vital step towards equality.

In November of 2009, Governor Carcieri vetoed the bill although it was overwhelming approved by the House in a vote of 67-3 and in the Senate by 31-3.

“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. If the General Assembly believes it would like to address the issue of domestic partnership, it should place the issue on the ballot and let the people of the State of Rhode Island decide,” said Gov. Carcieri.

Many legislators and community activists who were appalled by Gov. Carcieri’s veto are today praising the decision to override his choice.

“I opposed the veto from the moment it left the Governor’s desk. In November, I wrote the House and Senate leadership, urging their override of the veto. Later that month, I attended and addressed the candlelight vigil at the State House protesting the veto," said Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts. "Today I thank the assembly for reversing the decision to undo this legislation.

“Although I have long been a supporter of the right of same-sex couples to marry, this legislation is not about the issue of gay marriage. This legislation honors the fundamental right in our society to grieve for the loss of a loved one in a way that matches personal beliefs and honors the deceased.”

The sentiment was echoed by Kathy J. Kushnir, executive director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island. “On behalf of the board and tens of thousands of statewide supporters of equal civil marriage rights, we are thrilled that the legislature overrode the governor’s mean-spirited veto of the funeral arrangements legislation and restored some measure of dignity and respect to LGBT Rhode Islanders," she said.

“Now, at the worst time of their lives, people won’t have to fight simply to lay their loved ones to rest. We urge the legislature to embrace full equality for all Rhode Islanders by passing marriage equality legislation this year, unafraid of another gubernatorial veto. It’s what our citizens need and deserve.”