RI Senate Marriage Equality Hearing Notes

So I got there just before 3PM. Seating was ridiculously tight, didn’t see the point of tagging seats (Reserved for MERI) since people were already there and there were perhaps 35 available seats.

The surprising thing this year was the number of people who showed up in opposition to marriage equality. Of course it was sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage, RI Chapter. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Diocese had something to do with this and later on you’ll see how right I am.

I’ve already dispelled the logic of NOM. They are using emotivism to fan the flames. Recall emotivism being the formation of evaluative judgment based upon feelings or perception. We know it today as truthiness from the Colbert Report.

And more, the ProJo tipped it’s hand and we find out that Bishop Tobin is on the Board of Advisers for NOM RI. More, the article on the hearings even said the push back was from none other than the Catholic Church. Interesting.

“I felt as if I was treated not as a second-class citizen, but as a non-citizen,” Goldberg told the Senate Judiciary Committee, an hour into the first hearing this year on the 13-year push by gay-rights advocates for the right to marry in Rhode Island, and the pushback from the Roman Catholic Church and other opponents.

Pushback? I say we push back on the RC Diocese of Providence and make the sons of bitches pay taxes on all that cushy property they own. They’ve broken the cardinal rule, you don’t play in the secular sphere if you want to maintain your exempt status.

I cannot believe the church would actively rally against a gay person like this. It runs completely contrary to my early life in Catholic schools and Churches. A good friend says we’re seeing the dying gasps of the religious institutions. I certainly hope so as they’ve done much more harm than good recently. Maybe I’m being too charitable, we do know who started the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc. But their own Bible tells the following:

Timoth 2:11
Timoth 2:11

In essence the Bible evolves too. We discard those parts that no longer apply, or at least many of us do. So Bishop Tobin, do you still think Timothy 2:11 should be enforced?

In other news the legislature has changed the process to sign in to testify. Ostensibly it’s to protect confidentiality but it does nothing of the sort and I’ll explain why after I explain the new procedure.

Instead of a sign-in sheet you now have xeroxed copies with the bill number on top where you can put your name, address, phone, etc. Met a neighbor via this process btw. Let’s just say that Knight St. in Providence is pretty gay.

Now I’ll explain why it doesn’t protect confidentiality. They sort the sheets pro/con and then they’d bring four people up at a time, two pro, two in opposition. But they call people BY NAME!

Another swift move by our legislature.

At one point before the hearing started Chris Young, that annual sideshow approaches me to hand me a NOM “Marriage: 1 Man, 1 Woman” sticker. I just wagged my finger at him and told him to take crazy somewhere else.

One thing I did note about the NOM crowd. The vast majority were old people.

I did catch one comment from the NOM crowd, “You’ve got the religious guys here now.” You mean the bat shit crazy religious guys.

As usual Catholic priests tend to be rather portly. I guess priests don’t take the vow of poverty. We also heard from the morbidly obese Fr. Bernard Healey, the paid lobbyist of the Diocese of Providence. Of course Healey brought up the usual arguments. Sorry Bernie, the sky hasn’t fallen in MA or CT despite the best efforts of the Church in those states to demonstrate that it has in fact fallen.

Then we had sideshow bob, Fr. Michael Kelly of the Immaculate Conception Church in Westerly, RI. Another mentally unbalanced cleric.

Back to Chris Young, his testimony was wrong on many levels not the least of which he tried to negate a quote I’d sent to Rep. Frank Ferri and that Ferri used in his testimony. But he was so disorganized and disrespectful. Picture it, Young gets up, spreads his papers on the table and then starts searching for something on a piece of paper. Long gaps between statements, things like that. Young is bat shit crazy, no doubt about that. Young’s girlfriend Kara Russo is crazy too. I have to wonder, my father used to have a buddy with that last name and I think he had a daughter. I’ll have to dig into this a bit.

They finally tossed him out of the hearing room at about 9:30PM for backtalk to one of the speakers.

The most egregious award goes to Senator Leo Blais(R) of District 21, Coventry, Foster, Scituate. Blais sponsored S0136, which would have defined marriage as that between a man and a woman. I should think that by now having an (R) after your name should be a major liability. It shows that one has the supreme ability to pander.

Blais was openly disrespectful, laughing at testimony, and then chastising a young ACLU attorney to be careful what he wished for, which Blais qualified with the Prop 8 debacle.

I’m sorry to say Senator Blais that a Prop 8 situation could never occur in Rhode Island because we don’t have voter initiative and we never will because if there is one thing for which we can count on our legislator, that one thing is to preserve their power.

Of course Blais trotted out the usual arguments, if you pass gay marriage you’ll get polygamy, prostitution, drug issues, etc. Someone actually commended Blais for leaving out bestiality this year. And I find out that the arguments came from non other than Bishop Tobin himself.

“Contrary to the assertion of others, this is not an issue about civil rights,” he wrote. “Freedom is not unbridled license. … In short, there’s never a right to do something wrong … The fact that two adults consent to an action doesn’t make it morally right or socially acceptable. After all, two consenting adults can engage in drug use, prostitution, bigamy, polygamy or other immoral activities.”

“…hatred, persecution, prejudice and ridicule of homosexuals is a grave sin … But we also believe that homosexual activity is immoral and contrary to natural law, the tenets of the Bible and the teaching of the Church.”

Yoo hoo, Bishop Tobin! Over here. Yes, now that I have your attention let me explain something to you. There exist two spheres in RI, the religious and the secular. You sir have no control over the secular and should sit down, minister to your flock of sheep and let us have our rights granted under the RI Constitution. And you can’t have it both ways, you can’t denounce freedom to marry while at the same time condemning hatred, persecution, prejudice and ridicule.

Matter of fact, Tobin is practicing at least four of those condemnable transgressions.

Scott Spier (Spears, who knows, the NOM RI web site just goes to the national site, they could give a shit about the locals!) invoked Article 1 Section 3 of the RI Constitution, but he’s doing so disingenuously because the marriage equality bill would not require churches to perform ceremonies for gay people.

He went on to say that here we have a collision between the rights of gay people an those of churches. I say if you want to play on the political stage, lets see you churches start paying full taxes on those churches they own.

Another thing he mentioned was that it would curtail free speech. This was a major WTF moment for me. You can say whatever you’d like in the confines of your church. I noted he did bring up the shrill point that street preaching would be illegal. I’d like to see street preaching illegal but then I enjoy goading them so maybe we can let them stay.

Spier actually went on to rail about Scandinavia saying they have gay marriage and now they allow polygamy! Luckily a young attorney with the ACLU corrected him saying only Norway had gay marriage and not polygamy.

I did note a couple things about my Senator, Paul Jabour (D) District 5, Providence.

When someone mentioned that maybe some legislator had gay relatives in same sex relationships I noted that Jabour nodded his head. A friend of mine is a psychologist and he tells me that the full breadth of Kinsey’s research called the number of gay people between 5% and 10% of a population. It’s a range, not an absolute number. More astounding is the range for bisexuality, 30% to 40% of a population. I think Senators Perry, Levesque, and Jabour get it. We are everywhere.

And when a religious homophobe trotted out the tired arguments about Leviticus I noted Jabour shaking his head. I pretty much did the same every time someone brought up a religious argument against marriage equality. If you really want to get technical, homosexuality isn’t the only abomination in Leviticus. There are a number of others, like shaving ones beard, eating shelfish or pork, sharing a bed with ones menstruating wife, etc.

The other things the religious brought up was that marriage was for procreation. So tell me, is the marriage of our friends any less valid because they chose not to procreate? How about those who are beyond the reproductive years? Is their marriage still valid?

It goes without saying, the church needs fecund women and virile men to re-populate their ranks. But when you keep spouting hateful messages you turn off many who might be in your congregation. Why don’t these churches understand that their prime directive is to spread the message of love and understanding, of compassion and care for those less able. Instead they’ll round up the wagons because “Those gay people can’t marry! It runs contrary to the natural order!” which is the worst form of emotivism or truthiness if you will.

We also heard from Mark S. Goldberg whose partner committed suicide, but state law stood in the way and he couldn’t claim the partners body for over a month. Not to mention the fact that he couldn’t cremate his partner in RI because most crematoriums didn’t recognize the relationship between Golberg and his deceased partner Ron Hanby.

There were a number of sad stories, one woman explained how her girlfriend had sever neurological issues and that hospitals, doctors, and even banks won’t accept the partner as having legal power of attorney.

That’s the other thing Senator Blais seems to think we can do legal maneuvers around the fact that we can’t marry. Sorry Senator, you’re wrong again as usual.

My testimony was a little disjointed because almost all the points I wanted to make had already been covered. I did however urge the committee that at a minimum they should pass bill S0271, the Divorce Equality bill and let Ormiston v. Chambers proceed lest another court challenge end up undoing the Family Court Act of 1967.

Right after me Peter from MERI had a very good analysis of marriage through the ages. It’s not the unchanging sacrament the religious bigots would have you believe. Yes, I called them bigots because that is precisely what they are.

It is my firm believe that we will NEVER obtain legislative redress to our grievance. Our political leadership is just too afraid to come out in support. What they don’t realize is that the average elderly voter in RI has the memory span of a tse tse fly, they won’t remember neigh they probably don’t even know what their legislator is doing.

And it astounds me that we have at least three gay members of the House, and it was alluded to that there are even some in the Senate, and in the House your #2 is gay yet we can’t get a marriage bill passed.

I do hear the House version of a gay marriage bill has 30 sponsors this is good news since it represents nearly half the total number in the house.

Maybe we can overcome Speaker Murphy’s objections. Who knows.

But mark my words, RI will get marriage equality the same way MA and CT did, through judicial review. The case in RI is clear, our Article 1 Section 2 rights are being violated by not allowing us the same rights to marry as a man/woman couple.

I’m still hopeful Rep. Arthur Handy(D) District 18 Cranston has introduced H5744 along with co-sponsors Handy, Fox, Ajello, Ferri and Rice.

Let’s see, Fox – Gordon Fox (D) District 4 Providence, House Majority Leader and openly gay.

Ajello – Edith Ajello (D) District 3 Providence, Deputy Majority Leader. Only known atheist in the House and a staunch supporter of gay rights. I absolutely, positively love Rep. Ajello.

Ferri, Frank Ferri (D) District 22 Warwick. Openly gay state rep. I’ve had a pretty good email correspondence with Ferri, he even used a quote from an 1814 court case that I sent him which I got from my cousin Tom.

And last but not least, Rice, Amy Rice (D) District 72 Porstmouth, Middletown, Newport. Let me just say she’s not one to tolerate bogus religious arguments lightly. When she gets on a roll the religious cringe.

I’m going to write Rep. Handy and see who the other co-sponsors are. I wonder if Costantino is one?

More on the bill here:

It’s a very simple bill but this language should assuage the religious:

24 SECTION 3. Chapter 15-3 of the General Laws entitled “Solemnization of Marriages” is
25 hereby amended by adding thereto the following section:
26 15-3-5.1. Protection of freedom of religion in marriage. – (a) Consistent with the
27 guarantees of freedom of religion set forth by both the First Amendment to the United States
28 Constitution and Article I, Section 3 of the Rhode Island Constitution, each religious institution
29 has exclusive control over its own religious doctrine, policy, and teachings regarding who may
30 marry within their faith, and on what terms. No court or other state or local governmental body,
31 entity, agency or commission shall compel, prevent, or interfere in any way with any religious
32 institution’s decisions about marriage eligibility within that particular faith’s tradition.
33 (b) Consistent with the guarantees of freedom of religion set forth by both the First
34 Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 3 of the Rhode Island
1 Constitution, ordained clergy, ministers or elders as described and authorized in sections 15-3-5
2 and 15-3-6 of the general laws to officiate at a civil marriage shall not be obligated or otherwise
3 required by law to officiate at any particular civil marriage or religious rite of marriage.

Bill status on this says it was just submitted day before yesterday so I’ll keep a track on it and see where it goes. The House hearings are much more fun anyhow, They don’t get as cranky about the occasional outburst as the Senate does. This means we’ll get to see Chris Young’s testimony again, and this time I’m going to sit on the side of the room with my video camera so you can see what a wingnut this guy is.

5 thoughts on “RI Senate Marriage Equality Hearing Notes

  1. While the stress of the debate is upon RI; at least there is a debate and you’re active in it. I can’t imagine a situation here in NC that we would even have a debate… and certainly they wouldn’t give an opportunity for our side to be heard.


  2. How interesting. In R.I., at least, it’s not only an issue of discrimination/equal protection but also it’s becoming a 1st Amendment issue (separation of the R.C. church and R.I. state government). Poor Roger Williams must be spinning in his grave!

    =-=-=-Truthspew Says=-=-=-

    Poor bastard was buried on a rotisserie. There was a good Dilbert episode where Dilbert is asked to build an open source online voting system. But then he’s asked to build a back door into the system and he’s having ethical problems with doing so. He’s talking to his garbage man one day and the garbage man pulls out the coffin of Benjamin Franklin. Uses re-animating juice to bring Franklin back to life. It’s too funny.

  3. The legislation just quoted appears to allay fears about performing a ceremony that goes against a religious clergyman’s beliefs. At the same time it insures the protection of Freedom of Religion through the right to marry as two adults see fit. This is a secular issue. Religion should not even be allowed in the debate. It doesn’t matter if this offends your religious sense. We are talking simply about basic civil rights. Hey no one is inviting you to the wedding!!!! If they want to be truly in congruence then ban gay intercourse, just come right out and try to tell two consenting adults what they are allowed to do in the privacy of their own home. Let’s have good old time theocracy while we are at it. Anyway nice job Tony. Your article was very informative.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.